It’s interesting to see that Foodex decided to use a wooden pallet in its advert to promote the food packaging and logistics show when plastic pallets are by far the safest choice for the food industry.

Of course, no one would actually transport an unwrapped freshly baked loaf of bread on a timber pallet as it would present all manner of risks, but this advert just brings to life the hazards associated with transporting food on wooden pallets.

Pallets play a vitally important role in the food supply chain, transporting virtually all food from the manufacturer to the retailer; however, several aspects of pallet use and storage could seriously compromise food hygiene.

Any pallet that is not properly cleaned between trips increases the likelihood of cross-contamination. Plastic pallets are water resistant and can be steam cleaned or washed repeatedly, either by hand or an automated system, to remove accumulative dust, dirt and bacteria. Wooden pallets cannot be washed as they have the capacity to absorb water, which can cause the pallet to spilt or trigger mould growth.

If a pallet is not cleaned effectively, it provides the perfect breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria that can damage food packaging and, in the worst case, contaminate produce and cause foodborne illness.

You might look at the wooden pallet in the advert and think ‘it looks clean and safe enough to me’, but what you can’t see is what’s hidden on the surface – anti stain treatment if it’s a new pallet, or any number of contaminants if it’s been used before. And don’t forget the hundreds of nails that are holding it together.

All pallets are susceptible to wear and tear over time, but loose nails and splinters in wooden pallets risk puncturing food packaging and, in some instances, can penetrate through to the product. If you’re using wooden pallets for transporting food, it’s important to check them regularly for damage.

My advice to companies in the food sector is put hygiene first and go plastic. If you’re using wooden pallets out of habit, perhaps now is the time to switch to a safer and more hygienic alternative, like hygienic plastic pallets.

We introduced our first hygienic pallet to our range in 1995. Since then, we’ve been working closely with IPS, the Belgian pallet manufacturer for whom we’re the sole distributor in the UK, to enhance the pallet to achieve the optimum hygiene standards.

Although other manufacturers have imitated the IPS Hygienic pallet, none have equalled its quality. The pallet is made from virgin plastic or the highest food grade recycled materials and complies with EU safety legislation. It has totally smooth, sealed surfaces and can be cleaned manually or with an automated system.

If concerns over cost have been stopping you from using plastic pallets, it might surprise you to learn that, in a normal handling and loading scenario, plastic pallets have a lifespan often exceeding ten years – up to 10 times longer than a wooden pallet. Although the initial investment in plastic pallets is higher, taking into account their extended working life, they are an excellent investment for the future.

Tel: 01323 744057

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