‘How Did THAT Get in There?’ Identifying Particulate Contamination in Products and Packaging

Nov 1, 2012 | Contact Author | By: Kathleen A. Martin, PhD, McCrone Associates Inc.
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Title: ‘How Did THAT Get in There?’ Identifying Particulate Contamination in Products and Packaging
contaminationx particulatex analytical chemistryx
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Keywords: contamination | particulate | analytical chemistry

Abstract: Particulate contamination and discoloration may occur in products due to foreign materials introduced via raw materials or during the manufacturing process. Agglomeration or reactions between ingredients and packaging components also are possible sources. The identification of contaminants and their origin, described here, is therefore critical so that future incidents can be prevented and safety or regulatory concerns can be addressed.

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The unexpected appearance of dark particles or discoloration in a product raises concerns over the integrity of the product and can cause consumers to reject it. In order to catch problem products before they reach consumers, quality control laboratories typically examine a product’s appearance, as well as other properties, before it is released. Particulate contamination in products can originate from a wide variety of sources via raw materials or from debris in the manufacturing environment. Common types of particulate include metal wear products or corrosion, paint chips, shredded plastic, glass chunks, hairs and insect parts. In some cases, particulates or discoloration also may arise from the agglomeration of ingredients or reactions between ingredients and contaminants.

When particulate contamination or discoloration is observed, the next step is often to pass the sample on to an analytical chemist to identify the nature of the contaminant or discoloration. Samples are generally submitted by quality control or stability testing laboratories, plant engineers and consumer complaint coordinators. Identification is an important step in the process of tracing the origin of the problem so that it can be fixed, safety concerns can be addressed, and in some cases, responsibility for the costs incurred can be assigned. 

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Figure 1. Blue paint chip

Figure 1. Blue paint chip

Figure 2. Infrared spectrum of blue paint chip

Figure 2. Infrared spectrum of blue paint chip (top) and library spectrum of vinyl acetate latex with calcium carbonate (bottom)

Figure 3. Raman spectrum of blue paint chip

Figure 3. Raman spectrum of blue paint chip (top) and library spectrum of phthalocyanine blue pigment (bottom)

Figure 4. EDS spectrum for blue paint chip

Figure 4. EDS spectrum for blue paint chip; EDS indicates calcium-rich particles, titanium-rich particles, and magnesium/silicon-rich particles

Figure 5. Brown particle found in an eye care product

Figure 5. Brown particle found in an eye care product

Figure 6. EDS spectrum for brown particle found in an eye care product

Figure 6. EDS spectrum for brown particle found in an eye care product

Figure 7. Orange particle with dark brown central particle

Figure 7. Orange particle with dark brown central particle, smeared onto a glass slide

Figure 8. White cream with blue discoloration and dark particles

Figure 8. White cream with blue discoloration and dark particles

Figure 9. EDS spectrum for blue particles in the discolored cream

Figure 9. EDS spectrum for blue particles in the discolored cream

Figure 10. Purple discoloration in a pump product

Figure 10. Purple discoloration in a pump product

Figure 11. SEM images a) of base metal and b) corroded area on spring

Figure 11. SEM images a) of base metal and b) corroded area on spring

Figure 12. Formation of deep purple color when FeCl3 is added

Figure 12. Formation of deep purple color when FeCl3 is added to the product

Figure 13. Overlay of infrared spectra of chloroform

Figure 13. Overlay of infrared spectra of chloroform extracts of control caps (blue) and problem caps (red)

Figure 14. Subtraction spectrum of control caps

Figure 14. Subtraction spectrum of control caps minus problem caps (top) and library spectrum of an epoxy resin (bottom)

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