Keith Warriner, a professor of food science at the University of Guelph and program director of the school’s food safety and quality assurance program, tested reusable plastic containers (RPCs) at five fresh produce packing operations in Ontario and Quebec.
He found that although there was “significant variation on the sanitary status of RPCs at different growers,” 64 percent of all RPCs failed in terms of sanitary standards and 56 percent of trays had a higher aerobic count than expected on a cleaned surface.
Although there was no indication of a food-safety threat such as the presence of pathogens, Warriner recommends that the RPC decontamination process should be reviewed to enhance efficacy.
The study was conducted on behalf of the Canadian Corrugated Containerboard Association (CCCA) and was commissioned after growers required by retailers to ship fruit and vegetables in RPCs rather than in corrugated boxes expressed concerns about food safety.
In a press release, CCCA stated that many “containers are rented by farmers to ship their produce and then returned to the United States for cleaning.”© Food Safety News