Today, we’ll discuss inspecting both pickle jars and the pickles inside.
Pickles can be quite challenging on two levels. One: the pickles themselves – the cucumbers – grow in a field, and are exposed to a large amount of contaminants; that stuff can get in the pickles. Second: the pickle jars can be quite large. A one-gallon pickle jar is standard format in the USA. Containers that large have their own imaging challenges.
So, when you’re inspecting pickles, what needs to happen?
First, since most pickles come in a large-format container, you need a lot of X-ray power to be able to inspect them. In addition, the large jars are fairly asymmetric, or there are container deformities that the software needs to account for when doing the inspection. Last, you’ll find things in the pickles themselves that you need to account for.
Peco-InspX recommends using our Glissando Plus machine, which is a two-beam machine with 1200 watts of inspection power. It covers 100% of the gallon jar, from the bottom all the way through checking for a missing lid. With its unique architecture, it’s able to put maximum imaging power in the middle of the container; and with our special software for image normalization, the entire image is completely the same. That means no parts are burned out and everything gets the same level of inspection sensitivity. That’s extremely important – you don’t the image of the narrower part of the jar at the top burned out, meaning it won’t be inspected; and there could be a pickle or contaminant at the top that you need to know about.
We accomplish this inspection by looking through the bottom and through the sides. That gives us a nice imaging geometry. It also allows the containers to be back-to-back – they can be touching. So if you don’t have line control of your big containers that you can consistently pull yap, it’s not a problem with our system; it’ll automatically be covered for that, and you won’t see any abnormalities.
Now, let’s talk about the pickles themselves.
Surprisingly, most people may be shocked to learn there’s a lot of stuff in cucumbers. They can pick up glass and stones in the fields; sometimes they are party to wayward hunting shots and shotgun pellets get in the pickles; all of those things end up in the final product. (Our systems are incredibly good at detecting all those things!)
We actually recommend that customers do a bulk inspection of their raw cucumbers; that way, you don’t have to worry about any reprocessing of completed pickle jars that have stuff in the cucumbers.
We often receive questions about brining: specifically, how does brining impact the inspection process?
When the cucumbers are put in the jar, and then the brine is poured inside, the brine itself can cause imaging noise. That’s because there are a lot of air pockets, typically, at that point in the production process. It’s also because the pickles aren’t cooked: stacking them all up causes a lot of shadowing because of the layering effect.
The easiest way to address these brine-related issues is to inspect the pickle after a pasteurization process, which normalizes the image quite a bit because you’ve cooked the product. Peco-InspX also has special software that can handle that imaging abnormality, so you get accurate inspection no matter where you are in the jar – and you don’t get false rejects. Incidentally, to inspect a large jar, your normal false reject rate will be 5 in 10,000.
To learn more about pickle inspection, or other large jar formats, please contact us.