IFCO Responds to RPC Contamination Concerns Expressed by Corrugated Container Group

Upcoming produce packaging food safety evaluation will be agreed upon by packaging suppliers, growers, retailers, and regulatory bodies, to ensure useful, fact-based results.

Leading RPC provider IFCO Systems has dismissed the results of a food safety study that has suggested that “Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) used to ship fruit and vegetables in Canada pose a risk to contamination.”

RPCs stored at one farm involved in the study.

RPCs stored at one farm involved in the study. Image courtesy of Dr. Keith Warriner, University of Guelph.

“The press release issued by the Canadian Corrugated & Containerboard Association attempts to put a negative spin on the University of Guelph study results, which actually substantiate a lack of food safety risk with RPCs!” said Hillary Femal, VP of Global Marketing, IFCO.

“We understand the Association’s natural opposition to the growth of RPCs in Canada, but attempting to create a food safety concern where there is none does the entire fresh produce industry a disservice,” Femal continued. “The industry will continue to focus on areas of genuine food safety risk, and not use food safety to advance private interests”

“The RPC Task Force, which consists of parties from across the supply chain, agreed several months ago to commission a food safety assessment of produce packaging,” Femal added. “The parameters of this test will be agreed upon by packaging suppliers, growers, retailers, and regulatory bodies, to ensure useful, fact-based results.”

“It is clear that the methodology used in this study was both arbitrary and inconsistent with accepted standards. First, the 3 log threshold for the enterobacteriaceae count does not match common regulatory standards for food safety testing, which set the threshold at 4 log. Furthermore, according to the standards set by regulatory authorities, “because they are found naturally in raw foods, the detection of enterobacteriaceae cannot be an indicator of any processing failure and is inappropriate to test foods with raw components.” For purposes of assessing a genuine food safety risk, this test is irresponsible. Second, the use of an ATP test is also suspect. An ATP test screens for only the possibility of microbiological activity and will, in fact, pick up even dust or dry detergent particles present on a microscopic level after cleaning. Finally, the study author himself draws the conclusion that “there was no indication of a food safety threat.”

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