The Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) has issued comprehensive and science-based protocols to help ensure the continued safe use of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) for fresh and perishable products in the supply chain.
These guidelines encompass washing, handling, storing, packing, displaying, and collecting of RPCs in the supply chain. They also include rigorous and defined Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP), and hourly, daily, monthly, and quarterly microbiological testing.
There has never been a documented food safety issue associated with RPCs. In order to maintain this record, the RPA established a Food Safety Working Group in 2014 comprised of retailers, grower shippers, manufacturers, industry associations, and RPC providers to ensure their interests were represented in the resulting guidelines.
The RPA would like to thank these contributors for their leadership in this effort:
•Iris Bitterlich, BC Greenhouse Grower’s Association
•Mike Reed, BC Hothouse
•Jane Proctor, Canadian Produce Marketing Association
•Anne Fowlie, Canadian Horticultural Council
•Blane Seley, Dole
•Paul Forsythe, DRG Tech
•Phil Smith, Label and Barcode
•Jay Shirodker, Loblaw
•Ed Treacy, Produce Marketing Association
•Jerry Noland, Safeway
•Dan Vache, United Fresh Produce Association
•Claude Laniel, Union of Agricultural Producers of Quebec
•Michael Bledsoe, Village Farms
•James Ball, Walmart
For growers and retailers, a large part of the recommendations address practices to keep clean RPCs from coming into contact with potential contaminants. For growers, key practices include:
•Wrapping pallets of clean RPCs
•Transporting RPCs in covered van trailers or flatbed trailers with covers
•Regular inspection of trailers
•Storing RPCs under cover, preferably inside
•Using only RPC-compliant labels
Retailer guidelines include handling and loading RPC pallets like any other packaged commodity.
The RPA recommends that retailers and growers take these steps to properly secure and store used RPCs:
•Stack empty or used RPCs in a uniform and interlocking manner, collapsed
•Wrap used pallets tightly and promptly notify RPC provider for pick-up
The committee also researched and developed guidelines for adhesives labels to help make sure that RPCs are clean and free of adhesive residue for each trip through the produce supply chain. The RPA also created a protocol to thoroughly test whether adhesive labels meet the new guidelines.
The most detailed and numerous guidelines affect providers of RPCs. One of the more noteworthy best practices is the adoption of a microbiological sanitation and testing regime that covers human and plant pathogens in all aspects.
For more information, access www.reusables.org or call 703-224-8284.