X-ray inspection systems are becoming increasingly popular as consumer product manufacturers work to comply with ever more stringent safety standards. However, concerns persist about the health issues surrounding the use of x-ray. Mostly, these anxieties are based on myths about radiation and its effects. To debunk these unfounded rumours, it is important to look at the facts.
X-rays, like visible light, are a type of electromagnetic radiation. They occur naturally and we are exposed to them every day. Their narrow wavelength allows them to pass through materials denser than visible light, allowing x-ray machines to ‘see’ through material that is opaque to the naked eye. They do not come from radioactive sources and are only emitted when the x-ray system is switched on.
When passing through an x-ray inspection system, food is exposed to just a typical value of between 2 and 40μSv (micro Sievert) of radiation, depending on belt speed and focal distance. Scientific evidence has shown that such exposure has no effect on the flavour, texture, or nutritional values of our food. The World Health Organisation (WHO) even confirmed that food exposed to radiation levels up to 10,000 Sv (Sievert), ten million times stronger, is still safe and healthy to eat. The radiation dose for food passing through x-ray detection systems is so low, in fact, that such food can even retain its organic label after inspection.
As well as consumers, employees may also be worried about exposure to radiation. However, workers have no need to be worried as the maximum dose rate, if positioned immediately adjacent to an x-ray inspection system over the course of a year, is just 2,000 μSv. The average human is exposed to 2,400 μSv every year in background radiation and, according to experts, can receive a dose up to one thousand times that amount with no ill effects.
Rather than posing a threat to consumers and employees, x-ray inspection is actually of benefit to health and safety. X-ray inspection helps manufacturers comply with national and international standards such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) by detecting contaminants in food that can cause harm to consumers. Using x-ray inspection ensures our food is safer, protecting the end consumer without harming the nutritional benefits or the taste of the products.
Michelle Barnes is marketing executive at Mettler-Toledo Safeline X-Ray. For more information visit www.mt.com/xray-safety
This is the fourth of a series of articles on production inspection from Mettler-Toledo; click below to read previous articles in the series