Reusable Food Trays as Toilet Bowls: One More Time on Pallet Material Versus Due Diligence

Let’s face it. We’ve been through a lot when it comes to discovery of pathogens on pallets. The material of the pallet (wood versus plastic) has been often implicated, and has been a huge component of the ridiculous pallet wars we have suffered the last few years. In fact it is the handling practices that bear closer scrutiny, as pinpointed by a recent discovery in Vancouver BC that reusable food trays are as “contaminated as toilets.”

A CBC TV crew swabbed food trays from the food courts at three malls, and took them to the University of British Columbia for analysis. “We saw as many bacteria on some food trays as we saw on a toilet,” said  Bob Hancock of UBC.

We asked Michael McCartney of QLM Consulting for his take. Supply chain food safety is one of QLM’s areas of concentration.

“Bacteria on food trays needs to be controlled using cleaning methods that are established for sanitation of items that do come into direct contact with food,” Michael said. “A place to start is to use the same procedures and equipment that restaurant use  today to sanitize dishes and utensils. Each are washed with approved cleaning agents and are subjected to a blast of extremely hot water, 170 degrees, for more than 3 minutes in a stainless steel washer. Wiping a food tray is not a kill step, it is just the beginning of a good cleaning process. Bacteria will always be present. We all need to be more diligent in our personal hygiene and demand the same for anyone offering to sell us food.”

There you have it. The next time that coast to coast headlines demonize wood pallets for high pathogen counts related to pallets discovered in a mud puddle, don’t blame the pallet. Don’t blame the mud puddle. Blame the company that allowed the pallet to be placed in the mud puddle. And it might also be fair to blame those who those who insist on pinning the rap on the pallet material. What a waste of our resources.

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