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Foreign Body Identification - microscopy

Foreign Body Identification


Foreign objects found by the final end-user in food, beverages or non-food products are a serious issue. Fragments include glass, metal, plastic, or other non-organic or organic solid objects. The stage at which the fragment has been introduced may not be easy to determine. A foreign object incident can undermine a company's image and reputation and needs to be addressed quickly. Some foreign objects must not be destroyed during testing. Other foreign objects are extremely small, leading one to wonder whether they can be analysed at all.

In the power generation industry, deposits on turbine blades and boilers can impair operation and increase maintenance costs. The chemical composition of the layers of deposits may need to be identified to assist with determining the possible root cause.

During failure analysis on large plant or equipment, small pieces of material found during the investigation may need to be identified, again to assist with determining the failure mechanism or origin.


Our foreign material investigation laboratory specialises in the investigative analysis of small samples, usually fragments, layers or particulates. The analysis of a sample may assist in identifying the origin of that sample. We employ a range of methodologies and instruments to perform non-destructive analysis including:

  • Optical microscopy - visual features of foreign objects, with capacity to produce digital microscopy photographs
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy with Energy Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (SEM­-EDX) - fast and non-destructive means of determining the elemental composition and identification of foreign objects, deposits or contaminants
  • Fourier Transform Infra-red Spectroscopy (FTIR) - used to identify plastics and organic contaminants etc. This instrument also includes an extensive spectral library which assists with identification of the fragments and unknowns
  • Density measurements (sink-float method) are an excellent way of distinguishing the origins of glass fragments as this is an extremely sensitive method

Further analysis may be useful, for some samples, utilizing the following techniques:

  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) is an elemental analysis technique, which complements SEM-EDX. It has the capability to determine minute quantities of elements in various samples. It is possible to get a spectral 'fingerprint' to assist identification of materials.
  • Classical chemical analysis entails a wide range of 'wet chemical analysis' techniques, known for hundreds of years. These techniques often help to elucidate the composition of materials.


HRL provides individually tailored solutions and analysis results to support the unique requirements of individual clients.

Benefits include:

  • accurate results provided to our clients within an agreed turn-around time
  • independent, expert testing and analysis
  • from our many years of experience, our laboratory staff are able to draw conclusions about the identities of a very wide range of foreign objects
  • although glass fragment identification poses unique challenges, our experience and expertise in glass fragment identification is second to none
  • ability to analyse and identify samples down to sub-micrometre level (essentially no sample is too small)
  • foreign objects are generally not destroyed so they are still available for inspection after the testing
  • potentially provide understanding about how the contamination occurred
  • may assist in the preservation of company image and brand reputation
  • assist in the understanding of failure mechanisms or deposit formation
  • assist clients with future mitigation of operating expenditure.

Meet the Experts


With over two decades of experience in the analysis and identification of foreign objects, Michelle boasts a wealth of knowledge spanning various industries, including glass manufacturing, food, and beverage. Her expertise extends to the identification of glass defects, such as stones and inclusions near fracture origins, serving both quality assurance and manufacturing purposes. In addition to her specialisation in these areas, Michelle has a strong background in R&D projects centred around composite materials, showcasing her profound understanding of process and manufacturing requirements. This diverse skill set enables her to efficiently deliver results to customers while specialising in metals, polymers, ceramics, and other materials, making her a versatile and valuable expert in her field.


Rowan has over six years of analytical laboratory experience, including more than four years in quality control, quality assurance, and diagnostic fault investigation for the polymer compounding, and rubber manufacturing industries. Over the last two years at HRL, Rowan has worked as an expert materials analyst examining fragments and foreign matter found in consumer products and industry processes in order to determine their compositions and possible sources of origin. As a member of the fragment analysis team, Rowan has experience consulting with clients in detail to facilitate specific analytical needs.

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Our Certifications


NATA accredited AtS/NZS ISO 17025, AS/NZS ISO 17020NATA Accredited Laboratories number 561

ISO 9001 Quality Management

ISO 9001 Quality Management certified by BSI under certificate number FS605116.