It is more important than ever for food and drink companies to think carefully about the protocols put in place for ensuring quality control. Fortunately, the rapid pace of innovation in the field of food inspection technology is allowing food and drink manufacturers to combat this risk by installing systems on their production lines that can identify potential issues with food quality before they develop.
Food inspection technologies allow for the real-time analysis of food products on the production line. Such non-destructive technologies overcome the disadvantages of conventional destructive testing as a greater proportion of items may be sampled without interrupting the production run or sacrificing stock to testing. Food inspection technologies include a wide range of techniques, such as X-ray inspection, optical imaging techniques, vision systems and hyperspectral imaging. The wide range of techniques being used and developed reflects the fact that identifying potential safety hazards in food is a challenging task, depending on the particular contaminant, the medium in which it is found and the presence of packaging.
Figure 1 illustrates the number of patent applications being filed for food inspection technologies and the number of granted patents being awarded in this field. The data shows that investment in patent protection has steadily increased in both numbers of patent applications filed and the number of patents granted for food inspection technologies since 2013 (when the horsemeat scandal shook consumer confidence in many well-known food brands). This demonstrates that the pace of innovation in these technologies is growing. It appears that food and drink manufacturers are recognising the importance of investing in research into inspection systems to mitigate the increasing risk of food safety issues.
Figure 1 The numbers of patent applications and granted patents for food inspection technologies 2006-2017