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Produce Company Sticks with Proven Metal Detectors for New Plant

F&S Produce has been perfecting its production practices since the company’s start 37 years ago. Now, it’s a leading supplier of fresh-cut and frozen produce, purees, and specialty prepared foods. To meet growing demand, F&S Produce opened a third facility in Vineland, NJ, in 2018 and installed six new Signature Touch metal detectors from Mettler-Toledo Safeline to maximize food safety on their new packaging lines.

“When we researched metal detectors for our first two facilities many years ago, other food processors suggested Mettler-Toledo. They had a reputation for making the most accurate and reliable systems then, and they still do today. We’ve installed more and more Safeline metal detectors over the years and have been very happy with their performance,” says Sam Pipitone Jr., President and founder of F&S Produce. “Our longtime sales rep, Joe Young from Reliant Packaging Machinery, suggested the Signature Touch systems for our new lines, since they give us all the user-friendly functionality we need at a great price.”

According to Mettler-Toledo, its Signature Touch is a robust workhorse that’s ideal for F&S Produce’s applications. Featuring high-frequency advanced coil technology and state-of-the-art electronic filtering techniques, it finds both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, including even the most difficult to detect non-magnetic stainless steel fragments, while minimizing false rejects.

“Our facility is cold and wet, which is tough on electronics. We wash down all our equipment daily, even the ones handling packaged products, because sanitation is our highest priority when processing fresh-cut foods,” says Sam Pipitone III, Vice President of F&S Produce. “It’s a testament to the design and construction of our Safeline metal detectors that they withstand all that water exposure just fine. They have great uptime and are very dependable.”

F&S Produce’s new Vineland facility is dedicated exclusively to their retail products, including fresh-cut fruits and vegetables as well as prepared entrees and side dishes such as stir-fries, protein salads, wraps, sandwiches, snack kits, salsas, meal solutions, and more. Packages vary widely in size, from 2-oz bags of sliced apples to 30-lb bags of vegetables. All products are sent through a Signature Touch system as the final step before secondary packaging. If a package doesn’t pass inspection, it’s automatically removed from the line with a pneumatic reject arm from Mettler-Toledo.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say we couldn’t function without our Safeline metal detectors—they’re an essential part of our SQF certification, our HACCP program, and our food defense plan,” says Colin Turner, Chief Strategy Officer at F&S Produce. “Our quality control team tests each system at startup and during changeovers as well as every 30 minutes, which gives us confidence that sensitivity remains consistent. Plus, a Mettler-Toledo technician comes in every year to do complete audits on all our metal detectors.”

At F&S Produce’s other two facilities, they rely on nine additional Mettler-Toledo metal detectors, including a pipeline Signature Touch, six PowerPhasePRO models, and two PowerPhasePLUS models.

Their pipeline Signature Touch, which inspects a variety of purees, features a 4-in. pipe with a Safeline diverter valve reject device. Good product is sent to a cleanroom for packaging into containers that range from 5-gal pails to 50-gal drums, while rejected product is redirected into a diversion bin for analysis.

Their PowerPhasePRO and PowerPhasePLUS systems, which inspect a variety of retail and foodservice products, feature multi-simultaneous frequency operation to ensure high sensitivity and automatically accommodate product variations. A Faraday Screen, located between the detector coil system and the package being inspected, filters out interfering signals to reduce false rejects. F&S Produce’s systems are equipped with either a pneumatic reject arm or a pneumatic diversion shoot, all from Mettler-Toledo, to redirect any products that don’t pass inspection.

“Our new Vineland facility enables us to expand our operations and increase capacity. We’re setting a new, best-in-class manufacturing standard in the fresh-cut industry, and we rely on world-class technology to do that,” concludes Pipitone III. “Our Safeline metal detectors are reliable, simple to use, and easy to clean. They help keep consumers safe, and they make our customers happy.”