Roundup: IFCO bullish on North American growth, and when swab turns to smear

IFCO is optimistic about North American growth prospects

IFCO is optimistic about its North American growth prospects, according to Daniel Walsh, IFCO president of North American operations. He was interviewed by Tom Karst in the Packer. Here are some of the highlights from that interview:

  • To date, the company has supplied over 150 shippers with a total of over 2 million Wood Grain RPCs for shipment to Walmart, and eventually will ship 20 million.
  • IFCO is proud of its relationship with Walmart in the U.S., which goes back over 15 years.
  • IFCO’s business in Canada has been expanding at more than 20 percent annually for each of the last three years. The company will open service centers this summer in Ontario and Quebec.
  • Sales to existing customers are also increasing. “What is starting to come through at the moment is that many of our large customers see the benefits of standardization and starting to think what we need to do is go all the way with RPCs and use them wherever we can,” Walsh told the Packer.
  • IFCO has launched its SmartGuardian sanitation monitoring system, which takes the human element out of hygiene control. Walsh noted that with a billion RPCs washed and shipped annually, there has never been a case of foodborne illness associated with their use.

Source: The Packer


When swab turns to smear, again

The politics of food safety are back in the news with an announcement from FEFCO (European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers) about a new study undertaken by scientists from the University of Bologna. The analysis compared the use of corrugated trays with RPCs with regard to product contamination from pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms. The research determined that when both container types were equally contaminated prior to packing with fresh peaches, that the product had a longer shelf life in the corrugated containers. Apparently, shelf life was increasingly short for peaches stored in RPCs when held at high temperatures.

I’m not sure what contaminating fresh produce packaging or breaking cold chain practices to store product at high temperatures tells us, other than if you plan on storing fresh produce at high temperatures, or if you intend to use contaminated packaging, you are better off with corrugated.

I’m only a reporter and not a technical expert, but I would suspect that the absorptive properties of corrugated would help wick some of the contamination from the surface and avoid its transfer to product. Of course, these same absorptive qualities result in absorbed atmospheric humidity which can lead to performance issues and higher product damage rates. As for high temperatures, RPCs are designed to allow superior heat exchange. This design promotes shelf life when the product is stored within the appropriate temperature range. Curiously, this test seems to inadvertently underscore the advantages of RPCs.

To design an experiment involving storage at out-of-range temperature is, I suppose, one way to make cardboard look like the better choice.

The release concludes by once again citing last year’s University of Arkansas study, which has already been brought into question.

As always, it is worth noting that there has not been an incidence of foodborne illness ever associated with the RPCs, considering that over a billion of them are used annually.