Wood pallet association
supports review by FDA
Aug 13, 2009 9:39 AM
The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) supports the suggestion by the Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS) plastic pallet company that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test pallets for food safety. To aid this process, NWPCA is submitting several studies conducted by the European food industry to meet the European Commission (EC) Hygiene Directive introduced in 2000.
“The goal of the European Commission directive was to make a single hygiene policy effective from the farm to the table,” said NWPCA President Bruce Scholnick. “The European food industry conducted a number of field and laboratory tests on wood and plastic pallets and found wood to be equal to--and in some cases superior to--plastic. Apparently plastic is made up of minuscule honeycomb patterns that hold onto bacteria in a way that wood does not.”
The German Institute for Food Technology did field tests comparing wood and plastic pallets used in meat, dairy, vegetable, and bakery sectors. It found “the overall bacterial count on commercial wooden pallets made from different types of wood was on average 15% lower than on plastic pallets.”
A Nordic food industry study conducted field tests on survival of bacteria commonly found in the meat industry. That study was compared against those in German laboratory tests. The overall conclusions were the same: “bacteria didn’t survive within the wood.”
“We are sharing these food industry studies with the appropriate FDA administrators and are encouraging them to replicate them,” said Scholnick. “We are also asking that they include a safety test for deca-bromine chemical fire retardant, which is infused in the iGPS plastic pallets. In fact, according to the company’s own life cycle analysis, there is 3.4 pounds of Deca in each iGPS pallet.
“After pallets are roughed up in the normal wear-and-tear of the material handling and warehouse system, those chemicals are bound to leach into the products they carry,” said Scholnick. “The FDA needs to test the older plastic pallets to see how much deca dust is getting onto our food.”
Last June, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) urged the FDA to halt the use of plastic pallets containing decabromodiphenyl ether (Deca) for transporting food products. “Deca is a neurotoxin and suspected carcinogen that persists in the environment and accumulates in human tissue,” Richard Wiles, EWG senior vice-president for policy and communications said in his letter to the agency.
The FDA itself has weighed in on the use of plastic pallets containing Deca for hydrocooling fruits and vegetables. In an April 2009 letter, Dr Elizabeth Sanchez of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated that Deca is “not authorized” as a component of plastic pallets used in hydrocooling produce. She also said that FDA requires pre-market approval for the chemical “to be used in contact with food.”
The states of Maine, Washington, and Oregon have passed legislation banning the use of Deca for household goods.
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