Sourcing the Introduction Point of Foreign Matter

In addition to identifying an alleged foreign matter sample, most clients also need to know when or where foreign matter was introduced into their sample. Did the foreign matter enter with a raw ingredient? … during processing, heating, or packaging? …or was it unintentionally or intentionally added by a consumer?

Such questions can be extremely difficult to answer scientifically. Due to the variety of materials and possibilities, there is rarely a “standardized” approach for answering such questions. It is generally necessary to identify the materials involved and then follow this up using scientific logic to place constraints on the origin of a material. The extent to which such an analysis can be taken depends upon the sample and its condition. In some cases, specific details about the manufacturing process may help to further constrain the point at which foreign matter was introduced.

For example, a metal object recovered from a consumer product was submitted to our laboratory to identify the object, determine its origin, and investigate when the object became associated with the product. In this instance, a brown mass had enveloped the shaft of a metal finishing nail. A cross section of the metal shows that the material closest to the metal is charred to a greater degree than material further from the nail. This indicates that the residue (which was identified to be consistent with the manufacturer’s product) was present on the nail while it was subjected to heat; therefore, the nail was most likely present in the product while it was in production.

Microtrace scientists work with our clients through back-and-forth communication to provide answers that go beyond the identification of foreign matter. All conclusions are based upon factual information obtained through analysis, scientific literature, or our client. The solutions we provide help our clients to assess risk, prevent future problems, and if necessary, stand up to both the scientific and legal scrutiny of expert testimony.

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