Playing it safe

Basciani Foods is one of the largest commercial mushroom manufacturers in the United States, shipping 1.5 million pounds of specialty mushrooms per week to hundreds of foodservice and retail customers. The Avondale, Pennsylvania-based company credits its success in part to its food safety program, which helps ensure it produces only high-quality, fresh mushrooms free from harmful contaminants. Metal detectors are integral to Basciani’s food safety strategy. They not only help the processor accurately identify and remove any metal in its products, but also improve the company’s ability to comply with and exceed food safety regulations.

Basciani has used Eriez Xtreme Metal Detectors for the last three years at its main farm in Avondale and its satellite processing operations in Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Orlando, Florida; and Independence, Louisiana. The company has used various metal detectors from Eriez for more than 10 years and is pleased with how the equipment has helped it maintain its high food safety standards, including consistently earning HACCP scores in the upper 90 percentile range and maintaining its SQF certification. When it was time to upgrade its metal detectors, Basciani decided to stick with Eriez. The processor installed 15 Xtreme Metal Detectors, the latest Eriez metal detector model, in multiple facilities in 2015. 

Safety net

“We’ve added several metal detectors to our bulk and retail packaging lines over the last 10 years because of our growth. We need to make sure the products meet the critical control points and are 100 percent safe right before they are shipped to the end user,” says Fred Recchiuti, plant manager at Basciani. “The Eriez Xtreme Metal Detectors play an important role in that process.”

Metals can make their way into the mushrooms during the manufacturing process. After the mushrooms are harvested, they are washed and immediately moved to a cooler. While whole mushrooms are then placed on a bulk or retail packaging line, other mushrooms are moved to a slicing station before packaging. At the slicing station, minute metal fragments from the cutting blades may end up in the mushrooms.

“While the mushrooms are getting sliced, they go through hundreds of rotating razor blades,” Recchiuti explains. “Foreign objects like a stone or nail can cause the razor blades to break, leaving some fragments in the sliced mushrooms. That’s why all boxes go through the metal detectors to make sure we are meeting those critical control points and to make certain that the product is safe.”

Once the mushrooms are packaged, they are conveyed to the Xtreme Metal Detectors. The metal detectors feature a balanced coil technology that can detect ferrous, nonferrous and stainless steel contaminants. 

Balancing act

Recchiuti is impressed with the sensitivity and accuracy of the Xtreme Metal Detectors, touting the equipment’s ability to strike the right balance between absolute detection of metals while minimizing false rejects. Detecting metal in mushrooms can be tricky because mushrooms contain a lot of minerals that can set off a metal detector. The metal detectors must be calibrated for sensitivity based on factors such as the type of mushroom and package size. To create a sensitivity threshold that is accurate while reducing false trips, the operator uses the human machine interface to set up the phase angle, which is the ratio of magnetic to conductive signals in the product. According to Recchiuti, this enhanced boundary detection feature has improved metal sensitivity and reduced false trips in comparison to the previous metal detector Basciani used.

“Over the last few years, those sensitivities have gotten smaller, so the detectors have gotten better,” Recchiuti says. “The Xtreme unit is about 20 percent more sensitive than our previous metal detector to accommodate that. And Eriez is constantly developing software programs and algorithms to detect even smaller pieces of metal.”

The Xtreme Metal Detectors also enhance accountability and traceability for Basciani, according to Recchiuti. The equipment records every detection event. For example, if a product recall occurs, Basciani will have a record of whether the metal detector was used on the product in question, when or if the metal detector was tested and verified to ensure accuracy, and what criteria (phase angle and boundaries) were used for measuring the metal sensitivity. In addition, all operators must have a password to access the metal detectors. That allows Basciani to monitor who uses the equipment and what changes they may have made to the settings. In addition, the Xtreme Metal Detectors generate reports that help Basciani comply with food safety regulations. The previous metal detectors Basciani used didn’t have these features.

Given the new enhanced features on the Xtreme Metal Detectors, Basciani is pleased that it decided to upgrade its equipment. “Eriez has stepped up to the plate with some real innovations on these new Xtreme units, allowing us to achieve more stringent requirements,” Recchiuti says.