iGPS Announces New Wood Pallet Bacteria Test Results

Rental pallet company iGPS has released results of new wood pallet bacteria testing completed at outdoor locations such as fishing docks and outdoor markets. In a random sampling of such wood pallets in Portland, ME, and Philadelphia, PA, numerous pallets tested positive for Listeria and abnormally high counts of bacteria that could potentially create health hazards for consumers, according to iGPS. The company says that the new data bolster the findings of previous wood pallet testing conducted in the Washington-Baltimore area.

In the new round of tests, iGPS gathered samples and submitted them to an independent scientific laboratory for testing. iGPS videotaped the unsanitary wood pallets in Portland, and is making that video available.

In Portland, five of 30 pallets tested positive for Listeria. Three of the five pallets tested positive for the most serious strain of Listeria, called Listeria monocytogenes, which is the causative agent for Listeriosis. Responsible for approximately 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths in the United States annually, Listeriosis is the leading cause of death among food borne bacterial pathogens, with fatality rates exceeding even Salmonella and Clostridium botulinum.

The two other pallets testing positive for Listeria carried strains called “Seeligeri/Welshimeri” and “Seeligeri/Ivanouii,” which can be pathogenic for mice and may have been associated with a small handful of illnesses in seriously compromised individuals in the past.

In Philadelphia, 15 of the 30 wood pallets tested by iGPS had abnormally high bacteria counts that exceeded 100,000 colonies or counts/gram. Nearly half (14 of 30) of the wood pallets tested in Maine had bacteria plate counts that exceeded 100,000 counts/gram. High bacteria counts typically are evidence of unsanitary conditions.

“This is an indication of unsanitary surfaces and could potentially create a health hazard for consumers,” said Dr. Peter Kmieck, Director of Kappa Laboratories, Inc., which conducted the independent tests. “It’s clear from the tests we’ve conducted in Philadelphia and Portland, Maine that wooden pallets can harbor a lot of bacteria, and even pathogens, because of wood’s propensity to retain moisture,” Dr. Kmieck said.

iGPS commissioned the new round of tests after submitting a limited random sampling of wood pallets gathered in the Washington-Baltimore area to another independent scientific laboratory for testing. The lab, Environmental Systems Service in Bedford, VA, found Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria or extremely high bacteria counts – as much as 6.8 million spores per gram – in more than one-third of the wood pallets tested.

“This is an indication of unsanitary surfaces and could potentially create a health hazard for consumers,” said Dr. Peter Kmieck, Director of Kappa Laboratories, Inc., which conducted the independent tests. “It’s clear from the tests we’ve conducted in Philadelphia and Portland, Maine that wooden pallets can harbor a lot of bacteria, and even pathogens, because of wood’s propensity to retain moisture,” Dr. Kmieck said.

Bob Moore, Chairman and CEO, iGPS, once again called upon FDA to intercede. “There is a growing body of evidence that wood pallets pose unacceptable risks to our nation’s food supply. We are sharing the data from these tests with the FDA and are once again asking the agency to conduct a comprehensive investigation and adopt appropriate measures to mitigate the risks presented by wood pallets,” he said.

To put some balance to the iGPS announcement, critics of the first iGPS study noted that as tertiary packaging, wood pallets do not come into contact with food products. Generally speaking, research on the topic of wood packaging and the harboring of bacteria has been found to be mixed, and inconclusive. Click here to read research by the Swedish wood industry. Ultimately, it suggests, sanitary handling practices are more important than whether a reusable container is plastic or wood.