How CBS Blogged into Misinformed Wood Pallet McCarthyism

There was a blog on CBS’ BNET today that caught my attention, How the Humble Wooden Pallet Paralyzed Big Pharma and Now Faces Extinction Below was my response at BNET. One of the blessings and/or curses of blogs is that communication can be spontaneous, embracing emotion sometimes at the expense of reflection. But while I’d probably come up with a slightly more interesting title, I still stand by what I said.

Dear Jim,

First of all, thanks for quoting my work and actually acknowledging it. Secondly, I enjoyed your recollections of warehouse life and the way pallet exchange worked…or at least sort of worked. They ring true.

However, while the pharma industry has implicated wood pallets in the TBA recalls, they have never actually supplied evidence to support the claims. And as far as I know, FDA has never referenced wood pallets in its inspections. It has clobbered J&J over their processes, but not about pallets. See for example my blog from yesterday.

Wood pallets make a convenient scapegoat, but no evidence has been forwarded to support this claim. And if the issue was related to these “humble” (albeit engineered) pallets, why do we have all of these repeated recalls. Shouldn’t they have got it right by now? Maybe they are looking in the wrong spot.

When it comes to consumer safety, it is the process around pallet handling that is paramount, not pallet material. To capriciously speculate on the extinction of wood pallets may prove fortuitous in provoking a blog response such as mine, but it does untold harm to a multi-billion dollar industry and over 2,000 businesses that serve in the cause of logistics efficiency, and whose demise would pass along increased cost to the consumer, while not necessarily improving food safety one iota. There is plentiful research to support this assertion. Just call me. It’s not about the material. It is about the process. Pallets aren’t a joke. They are people’s livelihoods.

Furthermore, to imply that consumer safety will be safeguarded by plastic rather than a good manufacturing process that involves pallet handling is a disservice to the public. Dig a little deeper and get some more facts.

Rick LeBlanc

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