Case History: Metal Detectors Maintain Food Safety at Old Mansion Foods

Company ensures metal-free spices with Eriez Xtreme Metal Detector.

Whether paprika from Spain, pepper from India and Vietnam or cinnamon from Madagascar, Old Mansion Foods based in Petersburg, Va., has been manufacturing and developing dry spices, seasonings, breadings, dry mixes, coffee and teas since 1877.

Old Mansion imports and processes spices in bulk with extensive packaging options to include private labeling of custom blends for institutional, food service, restaurants and chain companies. With its location in central Virginia only a few hours away from Norfolk’s port, Old Mansion offers multiple capabilities and warehousing opportunities for its customers’ spice, seasoning, breading and dry mix needs.

The company’s 137,000-sq.-ft. headquarters includes a pristine test kitchen for research and development as well as a quality assurance laboratory to ensure product safety and satisfaction. Old Mansion adheres to FSMA regulations and global food safety standards and enforces strict sanitation practices with Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs).

Company officials wanted to make a metal detector a key part of the company’s Food Safety Plan. “Having a metal detector in your plant is no longer a luxury, it is critical in operations to eliminate food safety hazards and essential for food safety,” explains Dale Patton, owner of Old Mansion Foods.
Laura Palombo, manager of quality assurance, wanted a metal detector that would enable faster set-up, less downtime and be user-friendly. “While I am a very hands-on person, I did not want to be the only person to monitor the unit. I expected our other staff to operate the metal detector and be able to report any issues,” she says.

After a meeting with Eriez technicians and sales representative Drew Harris of Dominion-Carolina Sales, Old Mansion participated in an online demonstration and product test at the central test lab of Eriez Manufacturing Co. in Erie, Pa. They watched their own ingredients running through an Eriez Xtreme Metal Detector, which is specially designed to detect small metal contaminants.

The Xtreme Metal Detector features a user-friendly interface that is ETL/CSA/CE approved. It incorporates a dedicated reject log and event log, which is essential when Old Mansion runs various ingredients at interval periods through the detector, according to management.

“We’re not running just one product each time, so the diversity of the product mix that the Xtreme could handle was definitely an asset,” Palombo says. “You can use the EP feature [Enhanced Platform] based on a larger or smaller granulation, depending upon the product type we are running. The unique memory lets us store the proper settings for each product type for future runs.”

The Enhanced Platform (EP) technology is a breakthrough method used for the toughest food applications. The most difficult products for metal detectors to analyze are those that create a significant signal in the balanced field, which is known as product or bulk effect.

The Xtreme Metal Detector is able to locate metal within ingredients such as paprika and black pepper which, because of their agricultural consistency and mineral content, can make it very difficult.

“When you put through bulk product, settling pockets and conglomerated particles, make it more difficult to find contaminants,” says Patton. “Eriez helped us to identify settings to make setup more effective for those products, meaning fewer false positives and less downtime when the product is being conveyed through the system.”

John Klinge, Eriez's market manager for light industry, explains, “Some products generate signals that cannot be properly recognized by typical metal detectors, causing them to indicate there is metal where there is none. The Xtreme Metal Detector ignores these signals and is able to detect the smallest of metals in challenging products such as the ones produced at Old Mansion.”

The Xtreme Metal Detector offers greater sensitivity with its multiple frequency range, vibration immunity and unique ability to statistically regulate product effect. Many configurable inputs and outputs enable easy installation and give customers the ability to add multiple options.

Palombo said the Old Mansion staff did not require much formal training to operate the metal detector and that installation and set-up was quick and easy. “Eriez used our product types and samples and came back with a properly configured metal detector that was user-friendly.”

Palombo is pleased with the unit’s array of set-up options. “Setting individual passwords enables our production personnel to easily select each ingredient type we are running without changing boundaries or notifications,” she says. “EP gives us the ability to have one setting for like packaging of like ingredients.”

The Old Mansion quality control staff keeps detailed reports for each production run and retention samples for laboratory evaluation. The quality control team also approves all products prior to shipment. That means the Xtreme Metal Detector is a very critical step in the food safety plan to ensure product release.

Now, more than a million pounds a month of select spices are inspected by six Xtreme Metal Detectors.

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