A food producer was having a problem with BOD’s being too high in their wastewater. Touchstone invited the mayor, city manager, and plant representatives to the Touchstone facility for a technical presentation and discussion of appropriate solutions.

The following examples illustrate some of our contributions to this business sector:

  • The brine solution used to freeze water-ice confections inside their stainless steel molds is not kept sterile. Leaks in the molds can risk contamination of these individual popsicle-like products. A small manufacturer utilized a colorful dye which would discolor the product should a leak occur. After a number of failures in relatively new molds, Touchstone engineers were brought in to evaluate the cause. It was determined that the stainless steel alloy was appropriate, but an investigation in the scanning electron microscope (SEM) found inclusions in the stainless steel which provided a location for pitting corrosion. After showing Touchstone’s report to the mold manufacturer, all suspect molds were replaced at no cost.
  • A partially dissolved gelatin capsule was found in milk containers by a consumer. The question concerning what drug was released into the milk was answered by removing some of the partially dissolved material from the capsule debris and analyzing it using the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS). The spectrum indicated an immuno-suppressant drug was involved. According to medical sources, a single dose of the drug was harmless. An investigation at the manufacturing plant was performed to help determine the source of the capsule and prevent future accidents.
  • A food producer was having a problem with BOD’s being too high in their wastewater. The plant is located in the inner city, and did not have room to install a proper wastewater treatment plant. Fines from the city sewage plant threatened closure of the plant. Touchstone invited the mayor, city manager, and plant representatives to the Touchstone facility for a technical presentation and discussion of appropriate solutions. Since the city had the capacity to handle the sewage and the plant was so important to the inner city, the sewage treatment plant offered to handle the sewage at a reasonable fee, and Touchstone worked with the plant to minimize the wastewater BOD level.
  • Touchstone has performed failure analysis on all types of aluminum and steel cans used to hold a variety of food products from tuna fish to soft drinks. Defects identifed include oxide inclusions and rolling defects in the base sheet. Touchstone engineers have solved problems for many can plants across North America.
  • Touchstone set up a Lysteria screening program as part of the on-going quality control program in an ice cream and stick novelty plant. Later, when a test for Lysteria was found to be positive, an FDA recall went into effect. Touchstone scientists worked with the manufacturer and the federal officials, and no further positives were found. The presence of an excellent testing program and record keeping procedure were cited by federal officials as the reason that the problem could be brought under control so quickly.
  • The question of storage life for certain vegetable materials was answered through an investigation by Touchstone Research Laboratory. A device was built by Touchstone engineers that allowed the monitoring of the atmosphere within plastic bags used to store produce. An oxygen-sensing device was fitted to a sealed chamber into which samples of produce could be placed. The chamber was then maintained at various temperatures while the oxygen content of the chamber was recorded. By determining when oxygen consumption increased greatly, it was possible to measure the point when deterioration of the produce reached a critical point in advance of change in gross appearance. This allowed processors to state whether produce was acceptable for consumption for a given set of circumstances.
  • As part of West Virginia’s first technology transfer program, Touchstone worked with a small ice cream manufacturer to develop a complete quality system. With this new quality system, the company was able to expand its market to three adjoining states.
  • The question of contamination of produce arose when chips of orange paint were found on unprocessed radishes. In addition to the primary concern of preventing the paint from reaching the consumer, the question of source came into question. The EDS spectrum from an SEM evaluation of some specimens was compared to samples of paint from the processing plant. It was possible to demonstrate that the paint came from the shipping plant, not the processing plant that received the material.
  • The identification of various other foreign materials taken from food products has allowed better control of quality and, in some cases, assignment of liability in civil suits. Materials such as glass, wire, soil, plastic chips, etc. were identified in products before any harm occurred, thus avoiding expensive litigation.

The above examples are only a sample of our work in this area. We would be pleased to provide any additional information you may require. We also invite you to review examples on our website of work that we have performed in support of other business sectors.