University of Guelph Study Finds “No Evidence of Food Safety Issue” With Reusable Plastic Containers

The University of Guelph, Ontario Agricultural College recently completed a study on the sanitary status of delivered reusable plastic containers at five fresh produce packing operations in Ontario and Quebec. The study concluded that, “there was no evidence of a food safety issue”; however it did recommend that “the decontamination method of RPC’s be reviewed to prevent carriage and transfer of human pathogens.”  The RPA and its members agree that ongoing review and improvement of food safety practices are important.

The RPC industry already has rigorous cleaning and testing protocols. The tests conducted daily by RPC suppliers exceed accepted standards, and have proven to be highly effective. We know of no evidence from either U.S. or Canadian food safety regulators to support any documented food safety issue with the use of RPC’s in the food supply chain.

One aspect of the study addressed concerns about sanitary conditions found in some of the containers studied in the field.  The ATP and TAC tests used in the study are considered indicator tests for pathogens. They do not test microorganisms, only the potential for them. In the discussion section of the study, the researcher noted, “…no E coli was recovered in any samples tested.”

We are pleased that the study concluded that were no food safety issues found on the RPC’s. And we encourage everyone involved in the produce supply chain – container suppliers, farmers, shippers and retailers – to continually review their practices and their roles in maintaining a safe produce supply chain. The RPA also believes it is critically important for everyone to remain focused on identifying and correcting the root causes of food safety issues in the supply chain.

We all need to remain diligent in our commitment to food safety and to using studies such as this to continue this important dialogue on improving our food supply in the future. The reusable industry has an enviable food safety record and we will maintain our commitment to providing a safe and reliable means for shipping produce from farm to retailer.