Detectable Pens – Making the Right Decision for your Factory

From ink life to ergonomic design, there are so many key factors to consider when selecting the right detectable pens for your factory.

A site’s choice of detectable pen often speaks to its overall relationship with food safety. Here we explore the key factors to consider when making your decision.

In America alone, there has been a 20% year on year increase in food recalls over the past decade. With the average cost of a significant recall valued around $12 million, factories and the teams working within them are under a huge amount of pressure to protect their product and drive hygiene and safety standards. A staggering 50% of the physical contamination recalls relate to metal, plastic or glass, so there has never been a better time to evaluate the small and moveable items in your factory.*  

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We would recommend starting with your Detectable Pens, as this essential piece of kit can make all the difference when it comes to securing the recommended standards of food safety and compliance. Instead of taking unnecessary risks with metal springs and breakable parts, investing in the right pen design will help you to protect the reputation of your brand and secure the desired results in any upcoming audits.  

So, what steps should you take when selecting a detectable pen? 

1. Evaluate the different ink options 

The first step is to make sure the type of ink used in the pen is suited to the environment of your factory. Say your site operates at sub-zero temperatures, your operatives will achieve excellent results with a gel ink. Alternatively, if your team needs to write on soiled or greasy surfaces, a pressurised ink will make all the difference. 

Another key consideration is the ink life of the pen, as this presents a prime opportunity for savvy site managers to save money. At first glance, a pen offering 1-2km (approx 0.62-1.24mi) of ink may appear to be the more cost-effective choice, often sitting at a lower price point. However, a 10km (approx 6.21mi) alternative could last you up to five if not ten times as long.

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Finally, you need to find out what type of ball point has been used for the pen. This is a vital step to take because a lot of factories throw away pens before the ink has totally run out because the ball point has been damaged. To help you avoid this unnecessary expense, we have made sure our pens include Tungsten carbide balls. Much harder than a nickel or stainless steel alternative, this option is a lot less likely to be damaged.  

2. Consider the different risks 

The next step is to think about the potential risks posed by the pen you are looking to purchase. One of the best ways to reduce these risks is to opt for a shatter-proof design. Not only will this eliminate the chance of plastic splinters getting into your product, it will also help you to enhance your detection process. When it comes to the detection of foreign bodies, the ‘rule of thumb’ ratio is 1:10. This means that for a piece of metal detectable plastic to register, it typically needs to be ten times the size of an equivalent piece of metal. Essentially, the bigger a foreign body is, the more likely it is to be detected. 

The ‘rule of thumb’ ratio is also relevant to the question of whether your pens contain metal springs, as this small piece of wire could cause a big problem if it makes its way into your product. Even the very best metal detectors will struggle to identify such a tiny, coiled element, so we would always recommend investing in pens that function without this hazard. We are proud to say that our pens have a unique cartridge suspension system that doesn’t involve springs. It does however offer a firm writing experience that will be very popular with your operatives.  

3. Decide if you want a retractable or non-retractable design 

This decision might be a quick one if your factory doesn’t permit retractable pens. In this instance, you will need a pen with a fixed cartridge that will stay in place no matter how much pressure is exerted on the writing point. Even if your site does permit retractable pens, you still don’t want the cartridges in your pens to jump out of place. The solution is to opt for a pen design that has a positive retracting mechanism. This will hold the cartridge in place, protect the nib from drying out, and ensure the ink lasts as long as possible. Another benefit of retractable pens is that they don’t need caps – giving you one less foreign body risk to worry about.  


4. Think about your workforce 

The right pen can have a huge impact on the day-to-day life of your operatives. As previously mentioned, different inks can change the way in which a pen functions in different environments and a firm writing experience can be achieved with the right cartridge suspension system. Features such as pocket clips and lanyard loops are also important – making it so much easier for your workers to safely store their pens. Instead of pens being lost or discarded before the ink has been used, your operatives will feel a sense of ownership over their equipment. You will also notice that less time is being wasted on workers searching for missing pens, as they should already have one to hand.  

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What sets Retreeva’s range of Detectable Pens apart? 

Retreeva’s Detectable Pens  Standard Detectable Pens 
  • Shatter-proof  
  • Hygienic design  
  • Contoured for enhanced grip 
  • Long writing life 
  • High Quality European cartridges with Tungsten Carbide balls  
  • No metal springs 
  • Breakable  
  • Unhygienic design 
  • Difficult to grip 
  • Short ink life of 1-2km 
  • Nickel or stainless steel balls that are easy to damage 
  • Metal springs and lots of small parts 

Here at Retreeva, we supply both retractable and non-retractable pens. With a unique cartridge suspension system to replace metal springs and a positive retracting mechanism to fix cartridges in place, our pens have been designed to hold up against the daily demands of factory life.  

They have also been designed to meet your colour-coding requirements. Retreeva pens are available in four different housings: blue, red, yellow, and green. You can then choose between blue, red, yellow, and green ink, and decide if that ink is regular, gel, or pressurised. 

Made from shatter-resistant polymers that are FDA food contact approved, our pens are metal detectable and x-ray visible. They boast a textured surface that offers an enhanced grip, and the lanyard loop can be finished with or without a pocket clip.  

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We hope our overview of the key factors to consider when selecting a detectable pen has helped you to see the importance of evaluating each individual design element – taking the time to find a pen that meets all of your factory’s requirements. The benefits will be significant, with the right choice helping you to improve your site and secure audit compliance.

* Data used in good faith from a selection of sources including; Food EngineeringFood Navigator,  Food Safety TechQuality Assurance Mag and Food Safety News.

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