Quebec Wild Blueberries Inc. has been farming and processing wild blueberries since 1984. The Canadian company explains how integrating x-ray inspection technology into its production process has improved their contamination detection capabilities to ensure the highest quality blueberries to their international customers.
X-ray Technology Enhances Food Safety for Canadian Processor of Wild Blueberries
Blueberries are a popular natural ingredient in a wide range of desserts and baked goods, and they are commonly used in beverage production and canned products. The fruit has steadily become a staple ingredient for chefs and recipes all over the world—retailing far and wide in fresh, frozen, dehydrated and concentrated formulations. Numerous studies have concluded that wild blueberries have a high concentration of anthocyanins - a strong antioxidant that helps kill free radicals in the human body causing diseases like cholesterol, diabetes and cancer.
Based in the heart of the Lac Saint-Jean region, Quebec Wild Blueberries Inc. has been processing and manufacturing wild blueberries since 1984 and is a world leader in the research and promotion of this organic fruit. Today, the company has 4 manufacturing facilities in Canada and exports to more than 30 countries.
As Mr. Pascal Hudon, Director of Operations, explains, “Once harvested, the tiny fruit are immediately shipped to one of the company’s four nearby processing plants where they are graded for size, individually quick-frozen (IQF) and stored in a clockwork-like process that keeps us sufficiently stocked to be able to ship our product to customers throughout the year.”
X-ray Equipment Boasts Contaminant Detection
In their goal of boasting both ISO 9001:2000 quality management and HACCP (Hazard Analysis Control Critical Points) food safety certifications, the company started searching for a solution to help ensure optimal quality control and safety of their blueberries.
“We visited a number of industrial trade shows and then went into many factories that utilized metal detectors and/or x-ray systems, so that we could see how each worked in real-life situations,” Hudon recalls. “Our team sat down together and analyzed our choices until it was crystal clear which equipment best met our needs,” says Hudon. “We determined that the safety inspection unit that best matched our current and future needs was what Eagle Product Inspection was offering.”
Quebec Wild Blueberries Inc. installed an Eagle Pack 400 HC, seamlessly integrating it into their packaging line. “We selected this system for the Saint-Bruno facility primarily because of its ability to detect the inclusion, and to activate the removal of, small shards of glass, metal fragments and mineral stones,” explains Hudon.
The Eagle Pack 400 HC provides 400 mm of detection coverage at the belt, and it is capable of high-speed imaging of up to 60 meters (200 feet per minute). Additionally, its robust design features thicker stainless steel and plates cut and welded together, rather than bolted, to eliminate possible food debris collection points.
Local professional support from PLAN Automation, Eagle’s official partner in Canada, was also a critical factor in the decision to purchase the machine. “It was a key selling point for us that there was local service available to call anytime for help and support,” Hudon states.
Reliability in Cold Environments
“We needed to find a high-performance machine that was also capable of operating in cold environments where we have to keep the product chilled at a temperature of around -30°C,” explains the Director of Operations.
The Eagle Pack 400 HC has a robust construction and an IP69K rating. The tool-less removal of the belt and interlocked hinged louvers, which can easily lift to allow access to the conveyor, reduces the time and labor needed for daily sanitization and assembly.
“So far, the new Pack 400 HC system at the Saint-Bruno facility has performed as well as promised,” Hudon confides. “We are so pleased with its performance that we are currently in the process of installing a second such unit at our Saint-Félicien facility.”