Eriez Manufacturing Co. may make your next fast-food burger a little easier to swallow.
Eriez is in talks with restaurants, their food suppliers and the makers of equipment used to handle that cuisine to begin using its additives in seals, rings and other plastic parts, to keep those parts from ending up in your meal.
“People are concerned with food safety, obviously, and they want to do more to detect plastic parts that may inadvertently end up in food,” said John Collins, manager of the firm's Polymag division.
Erie, Pa.-based Eriez originally introduced Polymag in 2005, as a way for molders to separate scrap from two-shot molding by using magnets and a small amount of an iron oxide.
Once food processors heard of it, though, they wanted to know if it was possible to use the system to detect very small bits of plastic that might fall into the food stream, according to Collins.
Food processing lines already use magnets to detect small metal shavings, he said. Using Polymag's additives, they also could detect plastic.
The problems occur during routine maintenance or from simple wear and tear. For instance, a worker accidentally could break off a part of a thermoplastic elastomer seal when changing a nozzle on a mixing line, Collins said.
With Polymag, companies could detect pieces as small as 2 millimeters in the same way they find metal, according to Collins.
Those suppliers would have to create new compounds to make the system work, he said. Food processors would have to make Polymag's mix 10 percent of their resin blend, compared to 1 percent needed for a typical system to separate scrap.
Polymag said it is in the final trial stages of testing its additives in such equipment.
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