Following Watchdog exposure of ASDA’s unhygienic food delivery standards, the supermarket giant was forced to take “immediate action” to improve the standards of its home delivery service. The broadcast revealed that 60% of crates used in deliveries were found to be “dirty or worse” by an undercover BBC Watchdog team, but the issues could have been easily avoided.
Asda admitted to the BBC it had fallen short of customer expectations and that it had now ordered the deep cleaning of every home shopping crate and van. According to the Meat Industry Guide1, during transport food can be exposed to microbiological and physical hazards from the environment, through crosscontamination from other food or poor cleaning and maintenance of transport vehicles. Therefore, adequate procedures to prevent or minimise the risk of all hazards must be in place, such as regular deep cleaning, safe storing of foodstuffs and the use of efficient, sanitary materials for transporting foods.
The guide also stressed that the cleanliness of all transport containers must be assured and all reusable packaging is easy to clean and, where necessary, to disinfect.
Although supermarkets and food retailers already use hygienic, washable crates and trays to distribute, store and display food produce, the report clearly shows that they are not using the packaging to its full potential. By simply ensuring regular cleaning processes are in place, grocers would diminish the risk of contamination and easily avoid complaints.
Yet, even when packaging is washed correctly, the majority of supermarkets still tend to distribute and store their plastic crates and trays on rental wooden pallets, which cannot be washed and carry their own hygiene issues.
Jim Hardisty, Managing Director of Goplasticpallets.com, the UK’s leading independent supplier of RPTP (Returnable Plastic Transit Packaging) remarks: “Food hygiene scares present a massive threat to food manufacturers and retailers. In recent years, there has been much debate about the suitability of wooden pallets for transporting raw materials and food products. Since then research has revealed that wooden pallets can harbour harmful pathogens, so finding more suitable alternatives for use with groceries is critical to the health and safety of both businesses and their consumers.”
The nature of rental wooden pallets schemes, and the flexibility on which the system relies, means that the pallets could have previously been used in any type of environment, with particular dirty items and cause cross-contamination. For example, in garden centres with compost and manure, storing and transporting hazardous chemicals such as fertilisers and waste products, at builder’s merchants, and then finally for transporting food.
Furthermore, when kept in unsanitary conditions, timber pallets are also subject to mould and bacteria, even when heat treated.
In light of this and the recent Watchdog report, it is clear that supermarkets, retailers and food manufacturers need to both adequately clean their RPTP, but should also move away from wooden pallets and instead invest in using a pool of owned, returnable plastic pallets, giving peace of mind to both the retailer and consumer.
Because plastic pallets, crates and trays are much more hygienic, they are also compliant with food safety regulations. For example, the CABKA-IPS hygienic pallet range, available exclusively from Goplasticpallets.com are fully compliant with EU safety regulations and can be used by food businesses as part of a HACCP plan.
Still, plastic packaging offers a wealth of benefits, as well as being hygienic. Returnable plastic transit packaging offers a long-term return on investment, adding to a business’ assets as it can be used repeatedly. They are also much more durable, with a long-life span of up to ten years or more, and are able to cope with seasonal demands. Finally, they are also environmentally friendly and at the end of a plastic pallets working life it can be recycled, avoiding any waste.
By going plastic and opting for hygienic plastic pallets, food grade crates, containers and boxes over wooden alternatives, businesses within the food industry can provide a high quality, hygienic service for their customers.
For advice on what returnable plastic transit packaging solutions best suit your business needs or how to replace your wooden and cardboard packaging, call Goplasticpallets.com.
Tel: 01323 744057