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Four Ways Food Manufacturers are Integrating Thermal Imaging into Their Processes

Monday Dec 5th, 2022

Food Manufacturing

From waste management and building inspection to fire rescue and healthcare, businesses and organizations of all types use thermal cameras. One of the more recent industry subsectors that has found utility in thermal imaging is food manufacturing, or food and beverage production.

If you’re curious about how food manufacturers use thermal imaging cameras (TICs), this piece may just satiate your curiosity. In it, TherCam, a global supplier of thermal solutions, looks into four ways companies use thermal imaging to monitor equipment and ensure process control and quality assurance.

Why Food Manufacturers are Using Thermal Imaging

While thermal imaging has been around for decades, it’s only recently taken a foothold in the food industry. Whether your brand recently dealt with a food recall or you’re simply trying to ensure your products remain safe for consumption, you need to consider using a TIC during your production process. Food manufacturers everywhere are using thermal imaging to:

1. Evaluate Equipment Performance

First, it’s an excellent way to monitor your equipment. Whether you’re checking the heating elements in your industrial baking ovens or the panel insulation around your walk-in freezer, a TIC can help.

By simply pointing the camera at your equipment, you can quickly be alerted to hot and cold spots that may affect the quality and safety of your food products. This information can be vital to your inspection reports if you're in charge of quality control.

Equipment to Monitor

  • Bain-Maries
  • Freezers
  • Heat lamps
  • Microwaves
  • Ovens
  • Refrigerators

Food Manufacturer Making Chicken and Pork Slices
2. Avoid the Danger Zone

Beyond equipment is the actual food itself. TICs can help you determine if perishable goods have been sitting out too long and are beyond safe temperatures.

According to the United State Department of Agriculture, meat and poultry products that have been left out in the "Danger Zone" for more than two hours (or one hour if outside in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (F)) should be thrown out immediately. The Danger Zone is any temperature between 40 °F and 140 °F.

To keep food safe for human consumption, you must keep cold food at or below 40 °F and hot food at or above 140 °F. Should cooked or raw meat remain in the Danger Zone for more than two hours, various bacteria can grow to dangerous levels and cause foodborne illness. Some of these bacteria include:

  • Staphylococcus aureus: Causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Salmonella enteritidis: Causes life-threatening sepsis, inflammation, and organ damage
  • Escherichia coli 0157:H7: Causes severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Campylobacter: Causes diarrhea, cramping, and fever

Food poisoning is incredibly serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases annually. To avoid producing defective products, use thermal imaging if your food manufacturing facility is involved in:

  • Checking packaging (cellophane, cartons, etc.)
  • Inspecting oven temperatures
  • Microwaving cooked meats
  • Microwave drying grains and parboiled rice
  • Oven-baking goods
  • Freezing food

A lot can happen between a farm and someone's plate. Ensure you have the equipment to regulate temperature carefully in your processing plant or factory.

3. Maintain Brand Trust

From supply chain issues to changing customer demands, businesses face many challenges. One of those challenges is contending with a product/food recall.

Unfortunately, the United States has hundreds of product recalls in a year. They can cause a company's value to plummet and can tarnish a brand's reputation. While large companies can often survive a product recall, their smaller counterparts can't always weather the storm.

Some of the most common food product recalls are due to bacteria in food, such as the ones outlined above. By simply outfitting your process equipment with TICs, you can significantly reduce the risk of dealing with a bacteria-related food recall.

Worker Checking Machine

4. Reduce Food Loss and Waste

When it comes to food manufacturing, there will always be at least some food loss and waste (FLW). But currently, about one-third of all food is lost or wasted as it moves through production.

It doesn't have to be this way. To minimize your FLW, you can equip your processing equipment with TICs to detect temperature-related degradation, production line issues, contamination, and improper handling.

Considering 80 percent of food manufacturers are looking to upgrade their equipment next year, why not make TICs part of the upgrade?

Not only will you be doing something good for the world, but you could also save your business thousands, if not millions, of dollars in production costs.

Reach out to TherCam

Food manufacturers must ensure they have the right equipment to transform livestock and agricultural goods into safe food products. A core component of that equipment is a thermal imaging solution. Evaluate equipment, avoid bacteria-laden food and recalls, and save on FLW. There is also emerging evidence that TICs can be used for:

  • Detection of foreign bodies in food material
  • Disease and pathogen detection in plants
  • Evaluating the maturation of fruits
  • Planning irrigation scheduling
  • Predicting fruit yield
  • Predicting water stress in crops

If you’re interested in learning more about TherCam’s custom thermal solutions and TICs, reach out to us today or browse our online store.