Foreign Body Detectives Go On-Site

RSSL is to employ high-tech hand-held scanners in the fight against foreign bodies in food and pharmaceuticals. Scientists from RSSL's Microscopy Department are already experts in identifying foreign bodies. Now they are launching a new service that will help trace the source of foreign bodies from the factory floor, and may help companies fight off false claims from customers.

RSSL is to employ high-tech hand-held scanners in the fight against foreign bodies in food and pharmaceuticals. Scientists from RSSL's Microscopy Department are already experts in identifying foreign bodies. Now they are launching a new service that will help trace the source of foreign bodies from the factory floor, and may help companies fight off false claims from customers.

Using the hand-held scanners, RSSL's scientists will be able to map all the different metals, and many of the plastics, which are used throughout a factory. This information can then be correlated with the results of a foreign body identification to suggest likely sources of the contamination. Or perhaps it will be used to demonstrate that none of the suspect material is used on-site, which might suggest a false claim from the consumer.

Some manufacturers might use the service only after a foreign body has been reported. Others will see the benefit of using it before an incident ever occurs. "Most manufacturers do not have a complete picture about all the materials that are present in processing equipment," notes Tom Ray, who heads RSSL's Microscopy Department. "The first question we ask when we receive a customer complaint and identify the contaminant is where in the plant that particular material is used. If manufacturers don't know, the process of identifying the source can be long and drawn out and if production is held up the costs can soon rack up. Mapping the plant ahead of an incident could save hours of time and lost production at a later date."

RSSL's investment in the hand-held XRF scanners will be supported by the addition of new equipment in the Microscopy Department (including a second high resolution scanning electron microscope and a confocal laser scanning microscope). This further enhances RSSL's capabilities in foreign body identification and is part of a wider programme of major investment at RSSL in new laboratory spaces and laboratory refurbishment.

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