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Most Common Foreign Body Contaminants and Consumer Complaints

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Posted 23 December 2014 - 07:53 PM

Hi there, 


A ramble then a question :-)


I remember being shown a list of foreign body complaints a number of years ago from a major retailer. I remember that metal was the top one, with plastics, hairnets etc. and then bone, stone etc. further down the list. My thought is that there are two types of contaminants, ones dangerous to health and ones that could cause a consumer complaint. Consumers seem less likely to be upset if the contaminant is organic especially one that was a part of the product, like bone for example. 


Obviously the ones most likely to be injurious are metals and glass. Stone can break teeth, bones the same and potential choking, and then plastics if they are big enough could be a choking hazard. Other than that its really brand protection. 


So when we test our inspection systems we use Ferrous, Non Ferrous and Stainless Steel for metal detectors and typically stainless steel and soda lime glass for X-ray based systems. There are lots more contaminant types out there but not commonly used. 


My question is really - what foreign bodies are most common and which ones most likely to cause a customer to complain?


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Posted 23 December 2014 - 09:48 PM

Always depends on your product. Which is why I would separate organic versus nonorganic if you're saying that bone is often a complaint from your customers. At my last job I actually had a separate list for detail on the foreign material.


Anything foreign that doesn't belong on the product is most likely to cause a customer complaint. Hair, zip tie, metal, glass, bone, blood.


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Posted 23 December 2014 - 10:02 PM



The most common *has* to be hair.  They may not say it's dangerous, but apparently the FDA has never heard of trichobezoar.   


The most common reported to the FDA?  Glass - http://www.ncbi.nlm....les/PMC1403330/


Some guys blog says - "Historically, this distinction between “foreign” and “natural” objects was very important. Indeed, prior to the 1980’s, the courts in most states applied what is known as the “foreign-natural” test in cases involving food related injuries. Under this test, the plaintiff could not recover damages if the defect causing his injuries was a bone, seed, shell or other natural substance known to be associated with the food being consumed."  - So even if you're not less upset, you'd have been less likely to get $$ out of it until very recently

Edited by magenta_majors, 23 December 2014 - 10:17 PM.

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Posted 19 January 2015 - 04:36 PM

Dear Terry_Meki


Part of the answer depends on what you are processingand how you process it. Chicken may have different FM  associated with it than say - shelled walnuts.


Another important point is if your products are USDA FSIS or FDA regulated. Under FSIS HACCP, you have to detemine what potentially hazardous FM may exist, thier probablity, and any controls needed. I assume this is also coming with FDA's FSMA and HARPC. FDA has outlined what they consider hazardous FM in the attachment below.


Attached File  FDA CPG555-425.pdf   81.19KB   172 downloads


Magenta-majors makes excellent points regarding 'foreign' vs. 'natural'. The producer's risk for 'natural' objects is often tied to the labeling. if you label as 'shelled' walnuts, then there is a consumer and regulatory expectation for exclusion of shells and shell pieces than if just labeled as whole walnuts.




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Posted 19 January 2015 - 07:44 PM

Dear Terry-Meki,


what foreign bodies are most common and which ones most likely to cause a customer to complain?


It's an interesting query. :smile:


As you noted, FB can be interpreted in various ways, and perhaps  also depending on local definitions and consequences, notably in US of course.


This fascinating link initially offers some (partial) statistical insights into first part of yr query within its own interpretation. It also (eventually) offers a partial and, ultimately, mildly horrific answer (to me)  for yr 2nd part via the pdf attachment at the bottom of the link. i won't spoil the conclusion other than to note that hair is apparently not a major suspect.




Several years ago i  chanced upon a FS book by an author working for a famous US food manufacturer  who was (rather amazingly) allowed to publish a cumulative / averaged top 10 ranking list of complaints received of the "physical" kind. I can remember being astonished at the number itself  and some of the components. Will post shortly (next few days) if i can find it in my archives.


Rgds / Charles.C


PS - here is another one focussing primarily on hazards but rather lacking the depth of data / suspense of above -



PPS - and one more, slightly OT (related more to the control aspect of the problem) but with a rather effective pictorial included.


Kind Regards,



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