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Metal Detectors Help Pistachio Processor Succeed

March 30, 2009
A Quicktron 03 R with a diverter inspects almonds prior to packaging.

Keeping its grower partners happy and profitable is a key focus at Paramount Farms Inc., the world’s largest pistachio processor. The company prides itself on being first and foremost a grower organization. Grower profitability is the number one priority. To maintain this focus, Paramount has built one of the most modern and efficient processing facilities in the industry.

Based in Lost Hills, CA, Paramount’s plant and farm operation is designed to meet specific corporate goals. These include: processing partners’ pistachios at the optimal time, while maximizing quality and grower profitability; efficient truck turn times (3-hour average); and 24-hour pack-out information available after truck delivery.

This philosophy has worked, as more than half of California’s pistachio growers have chosen to partner with Paramount. However, Paramount, which is also one of the world’s largest suppliers of almonds, is always looking at how it can improve. The company grows, harvests, packages, distributes, and exports from multiple facilities. Its engineering and quality managers are always looking for ways to increase production to meet growing consumer demand, while exceeding the industry standard in food safety.

Since 2001, Paramount has partnered with Bunting Magnetics Co. (Newton, KS), to provide the most current, accurate, consistent, and trouble-free metal detection technology and equipment available. This critical equipment provides final inspection before the product is packaged.

“The need to eliminate metal as well as foreign objects is critical,” stated Bobby Castanon, packaging technician for Paramount Farms. “We needed to detect this as close to the entrance of the package as possible.”

A Paramount Farms packaging technician programs a Quicktron 05 metal detector that processes almonds and pistachios prior to packaging.

The metal detection equipment is used at two vital points in the processing flow: inspection after weighing on the scales, and prior to packaging. The equipment is used in conjunction with bagging machines, as well as for boxes and large bags.

Paramount put Metron CR 05 and LCR 03 metal detection machines, which are one-piece collar-style detectors, at the beginning of the processing flow on the gravity or vacuum/pressure conveying lines.
Both of these products allow Paramount to satisfy its inspection levels to meet ISO 9001 and HACCP standards.

“In-line metal detectors were needed and it was important that we were able to detect as small as 1.5 FE, 2.0 non-Fe, and 2.5 stainless steel,” Castanon said. “It was also important that it be operatorfriendly and would work in our environment. We needed low-maintenance machines that would be easily repairable for quicker uptime.”

Pistachios are inspected by both a Metron CR 05 and Metron LCR 03 metal detector after being weighed on scales as they enter the Paramount facility.

Overall, Paramount has incorporated more than a dozen Bunting metal detectors into its facility as part of the inspection protocol. The Quicktron 05 is a cowbell gravity unit that gives Paramount extreme sensitivity with precise reject components in order to maintain minimal loss of good product. Any reject event is quickly examined by Paramount’s quality control team to find the contamination and
determine its origin, if possible.

“I have been completely satisfied with the performance and reliability of the Bunting products,” Castanon said. “They are used to stop the machine as well as cowbell reject to keep our machines running.”
Paramount, which retails its products under the Wonderful and Sunkist labels, processes its two products in a number of ways. Various flavors can be added, such as honey, sugar, salt, or cinnamon, and the product can take different forms, including roasted, raw, or sliced. Within these various processing areas, moisture content can also vary. So, it is crucial that the metal detectors are all food-grade and made of stainless-steel construction, as well as designed for harsh environments. The heavy-duty diverter is wear-resistant against abrasive products.

Paramount Farms employees processing almonds on a conveying line.

“Our epoxy-filled search head and special construction of the control cabinet make it impossible for water to penetrate,” said Joey Reed, Bunting product manager for metal detection. “It prevents the threat of water penetrating the search head from high-pressure washdown, effectively eliminating moisture or sweat accumulating while the unit is not in use. The solid head helps to stabilize and eliminate noise interference.”

The metal detectors need to be able to quickly adjust and compensate for any product effect. While each product is learned and stored in the controls by code, the operator for Paramount can easily select the current product and ensure compliance. Various colored test sticks are used hourly and randomly to check metal detector calibration.

Paramount has found other beneficial features, such as the ease of cleaning of the reject mechanics and the lack of maintenance of electronics. Also, the automatic product learning, basic sensitivity adjustments, and built-in memory cards that are available on the main control board make it user-friendly for operators to store and save data for safekeeping. Finally, Paramount has touch-panel displays that make navigation simple, with a four-level navigation that is password protected for security purposes.

“We pay attention to detail,” said Castanon. “Our quality assurance program is committed to virtually eliminating foreign material. We are the only nut supplier in the United States to receive ISO 9001 certification and have a deeply rooted commitment to total customer satisfaction. These metal detectors help us maintain that commitment.”

Bunting Magnetics Co. offers a broad line of permanent magnets and magnetic equipment for industrial use. For more information, visit www.buntingmagnetics.com.