Mettler-Toledo-XRay2

Case History: How This Snack Food Company Chose X-Ray Systems Over Metal Detection

Feb. 4, 2020
Foil lids and a check of fill volume tip the scales in favor of X-ray inspection at a J&J Snack Foods facility.

Over the past 50 years, J&J Snack Foods has transformed from a humble pretzel processor to become a leader in baked goods, frozen beverages and frozen novelty products with 4,200 employees across 18 production facilities.

Along with size comes increasing responsibilities to quality and food safety. Although familiar with metal detectors, the company decided to install X-ray systems on a new line and two existing lines in an upgrade at its Moosic, Pa., facility, which makes variety packs of frozen novelties: Italian ice sorbets, frozen juices and ice cream. Up to eight separate lanes run different products at once.

“We decided to go with X-ray systems instead of metal detectors on these lines because we wanted to maximize our detection capabilities,” says Carissa Chrobak, food safety quality control manager at J&J Snack Foods.

“First, X-rays detect all dense foreign material and automatically reject contaminated packages. Second, some of our packages have foil lids, which is a problem for metal detectors. Finally, we sometimes use our X-rays to inspect the volume of product in a cup or the placement of product components in a package. For example, we have a package for club stores that contains tubes of Italian ice, and X-ray inspection lets us confirm the tubes are oriented correctly.”

So the company installed three X-ray systems from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, including an X33 model in 2017 and another X33 and a two-lane X36 model last year.

“We have checkweighers and other equipment from Mettler-Toledo, so they were our first choice when we decided to install X-rays at our Moosic facility,” says Ernest Fogle, vice president of research and development in J&J's frozen desserts division. “We wanted X-rays that offered impressive sensitivity, ease of use and reliability at an affordable price. We spoke with multiple suppliers, including our sales rep Bob Hatala of Reliant Packaging Machinery, and it was clear that Mettler-Toledo was the best fit.”

Products from J&J Snack Foods go to market under 25 house brands – including icons like ICEE, Luigi’s Italian Ice and Tio Pepe’s Churros – as well as customers’ private labels.

The versatile X36 X-ray system inspects similar products, such as different flavors, at the same time on two side-by-side conveyors while keeping the two product types separate. Handling 250 cups per minute, the line inspects Italian ice sorbets, frozen juice and ice cream in 2- or 4-oz. cups with foil lids or 6-oz. cups with paper locking lids.

The X36 is equipped with several options including a Safeline pneumatic reject device, an electronic bin for storing rejected products and a buzzer that alerts the operator when a package is rejected.

J&J Snack Foods selected the single-lane X33 X-ray system for each of its two high-throughput frozen dessert and beverage packaging lines. These lines handle a variety of different poly-based cups, ranging in size from 3 to 4.4 oz., at 250 cups per minute. Like the X36 system, they’re equipped with Safeline pneumatic reject devices, electronic bins and alarms.

Both the X33 and X36 models achieve the same high detection sensitivity as their previous-generation SmartChek and AdvanChek models but feature 20-watt generators, which consume one fifth of the power.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to minimize the energy we consume in order to reduce our environmental impact and improve our bottom line,” says Jay Montomery, vice president and general manager at J&J Snack Foods. “These Safeline systems help support our goal to be as green as possible.”

To create variety packs, two lanes of frozen novelties enter the X36 X-ray system.

“Since food safety is our top priority, sanitation is always on our minds," adds Henry Anderson, maintenance manager. "We wash down all our lines at least once a day, so our machines need to be easy to clean. In addition to having inherently hygienic designs, our X-ray systems include Safeline’s optional IP65/IP66 enclosures so electronics stay dry and the equipment runs perfectly, even with our frequent washdowns.”

“All around, the X33 and X36 are very straightforward to use," explains Anderson. "They feature intuitive touchscreen control panels and pre-programmed settings, which keep it simple for operators. Three levels of password protection prevent low-level employees from accidently changing product recipes. These systems require only routine preventative maintenance – we’ve had no unplanned downtime.”

“Our products can be found in virtually every supermarket nationwide as well as Walmart and Sam’s Club. We have a responsibility to ensure that everything we put out is top quality,” concludes Fogle. “Our Safeline X-ray systems help protect our brand names, our private label customers and consumers. The X33 and X36 have consistently great sensitivity and minimal false rejects with fantastic uptime. We’re very satisfied with their success.”

Learn more about Mettler Toledo Product Inspection Group (Safeline, Hi-Speed, CI-Vision, and PCE) at www.mt.com/pi.