Bühler’s Nut Sorting Technology Offers “Zero Tolerance” Approach to Meeting Food Safety Standards

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03 Apr 2017 --- Industry and consumer pressure for a “zero tolerance” approach to contamination is driving unprecedented demand for Bühler’s SORTEX E optical sorters, with sales doubling, following the introduction of SORTEX BioVision technology in 2015.

Bühler’s innovation has revolutionized nut processing capabilities for existing customers and is now attracting new ones, meaning orders for SORTEX sorters are expected to continue their upward trajectory, as world nut production continues to increase and processors strive to eliminate all forms of contamination from nuts. 
 
Bühler’s success - not only in optical sorting for nuts, but also conveying, cleaning, sizing, grading, roasting, grinding  and pasteurization - means that approximately one third of all the tree nuts grown globally are now processed on Bühler equipment, making it the number one provider for complete nut processing solutions. Click to Enlarge
 
It is this “end-to-end” technology innovation that is helping processors meet rising demand – global production is forecast to exceed 45 million metric tons (MT) this year, fuelled by rising awareness of the vast health benefits associated with the different varieties of nuts, a global consumer shift to eating more plant proteins and their increased affordability. In fact, according to Transparency Market Research, the worldwide nut market will hit US$1.3billion, by 2021.
 
However, the inexorable rise in nut demand also brings with it obligations to meet ever-more stringent food safety and quality requirements. Contamination, either from FM, aflatoxins or allergens is not acceptable, which is why many processors have adopted a “zero tolerance” approach and are investing in technology that can ensure quality and safeguard their business.
 
And this is why more and more processors are turning to Bühler to help them protect the customers they already have, and win new ones. Demand across Europe for sorting equipment for a range of nuts, including almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, has soared. July through to September were extremely busy months for installations and training in North America - particularly for almonds and walnuts. 
 
It is easy to see why. Side-by-side trials with comparable solutions show that the SORTEX E BioVision outperforms other solutions, across a wide range of in-shell, kernel and product recovery sorts.  It more accurately removes all colour defects, including black blemishes in almonds as well as the smallest shell fragments (down to 2mm) in walnuts, pecans and pistachios. Plus, with the latest introduction of its new high powered ejector, it can remove even heavier FM, such as stones. 
 
Regarded as the most technologically advanced in the industry, the high-capacity SORTEX E BioVision is designed to be heavily loaded, even at high processing speeds, with an enhanced feed system to stabilise the flow of products to the inspection system – ideal for commodities such as hazelnuts and almonds.  It is simple to set-up and switch between multiple nut varieties, providing high yields and consistent performance throughout the sorting process – all within a convenient small footprint.
 
Bühler’s wider optical sorting portfolio contains a complete range of SORTEX innovations, including  InGaAsHD and PROfile technologies, both used on the SORTEX A MultiVision, which is considered the best on the market for removing yellows and reducing aflatoxin levels in nuts.
 
Charith Gunawardena, head of optical sorting at Bühler puts the demand into context: “In 2015, a major US nut manufacturer was forced to recall some of its products, due to the presence of clear, hard FM that posed a risk of injury. Unwanted, foreign and hazardous materials can originate from the product itself, or come from the field, transport or manufacturing stages.  Fragments of shell, hull, membrane/sceptre or bits from the harvest process, such as sticks and stones, can merge with the product at an early stage in the process, whilst FM, such as glass and plastic, can enter during transportation or, later on, from processing machinery or packaging materials. Optical sorting can remove what is missed by the mechanical cleaning process and also eliminate difficult-to-detect contaminants, such as shell the same colour as the kernels, to prevent it from adulterating the final product.
 
He adds: “The food industry takes product safety extremely seriously. In recent years, several products have been subject to public health scares for the presence of aflatoxins, a carcinogenic mycotoxin, produced by the aspergillus flavus and aspergillus parasiticus moulds, which can be found in improperly-stored nuts. Peanut butter, peanut cooking oil and tree nuts from various international manufacturers have suffered from contamination issues in the past. Bühler’s advanced cleaning and SORTEX A optical sorting solution can reduce levels to safe limits, as recommended by industry regulators.” 
 
Managing allergens is also more important than ever. Nuts are a common cause of food allergies and reactions can be severe, particularly in children. Sufferers must avoid the nut in question or risk becoming seriously ill. This poses a significant challenge for processors, who may be processing different types of nuts in the same plant. It is essential to be able to separate one type of nut from another (e.g. almonds from peanuts) to avoid cross-contamination.
 
Defects in blanched nuts can also be a problem, for ready snacks, ingredients or toppings. Removing rotten, broken, insect damaged, adhering skin, chipped, scratched and even the subtlest discolouration is important, in order maintain the quality, price and brand reputation.
 
Bühler’s portfolio of solutions is able to tackle all of these issues for processors…and it can also guarantee outstanding local sales and service support in over 140 countries worldwide.
 
Emphasises Gunawardena: “As a company, our focus is – and always will be – on our customers.  We do everything in our power to provide the best possible customer service in the industry. We work hard to support everyone in the nut supply chain, from encouraging best practice with the processors themselves, to working with pre-processors, to adopt proven pre-cleaning technologies such as size, aspiration and density separation, to remove common FM from the harvest and transportation stages.
 
“Further along the chain, we undertake a final quality check, in the packing line of the processing plant, to ensure no FM has entered, at any previous stage. We see our customers’ business as our business, so we do everything we can to ensure they are fully supported throughout the entire process.”
 
Once the technology has been installed, the SORTEX TotalCare package – featuring preventative maintenance, emergency repair, ejector servicing, plus Anyware health checks and alerts – ensures Bühler delivers the highest quality local, on the ground support. Fast response times also guarantee that the technology performs to its maximum efficiency, delivering superior productivity with minimal downtime and a maximum return on investment.
 
With a pipeline of innovative new product development taking place behind the scenes, Bühler is looking forward to continue its work with processors in all nut processing regions around the globe, to meet their specifications and, ultimately, help to ensure the safety of food worldwide.

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