By Jerry Welcome
Providing a safe food supply chain is a top concern for the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) and our members. In fact, there has never been a documented food safety issue associated with the use of reusable plastic containers (RPCs) in Canada or the U.S.
To help maintain this stellar record, we formed an RPC Food Safety Standards Committee earlier this year. This industry-wide committee, that includes the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and other stakeholders from Canada, has been researching and developing even stronger sanitation protocols for reusable containers based on HACCP, GMPs, and other food safety regimens identified by the U.S. FDA and its Canadian counterparts. The guidelines also draw from recognized international food safety standards and practices.
The Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association (CCCA) is distributing a report from the University of Guelph with questionable results about a study on the cleanliness of RPCs used by Canadian growers, shippers and retailers. We believe that using the threat of food safety as a marketing tool is a disservice to the consumer and to the industries we serve.
Here are the facts: RPCs have been used to ship food products such as milk, eggs, and produce in the U.S. and Europe for more than 20 years without a single documented incidence of food contamination attributable to their use.
The guidelines being developed by the RPC Food Safety Standards Committee will strengthen the safety of reusable containers even more. When they are published later this year, we will encourage all manufacturers, service providers, users, and retailers to adopt and adhere to them. When fully vetted, the guidelines will become the best practices for reusables in the food supply chain.
The guidelines have been researched and discussed by a broad cross-section of representatives of the food supply chain. They include the manufacturers of reusable products and service providers, shippers and growers, label manufacturers, retailers, and industry trade groups such as United Fresh, CPMA, PMA, the Canadian Horticulture Association, and many other Canadian groups. They have been working diligently to make sure we are doing everything possible as an industry to address potential food safety concerns with real measurable solutions.
The use of returnable shipping containers is increasing in the food industry. This growth is occurring because reusables offer multiple documented benefits over expendable packaging including cost reductions, less waste, better product protection, better transportation utilization, easier to handle containers, and a more environmental friendly and sustainable business for all users in the supply chain.
These benefits are challenging expendable products in the marketplace. The suppliers of those products are now turning to scare tactics and questionable studies to stem the incursion of reusables into an area where they have been the dominant supplier.
We need to separate real issues from perceived ones. We need to identify real threats to the safety of our food supply system and stay focused on dealing with these issues in a collaborative and rational manner. The RPA and its members remain committed to working with users and retailers to identify potential issues and resolve them together.
We welcome the participation of our detractors as well as our supporters to address real food safety issues and to continually strengthen reusable solutions and practices to create a safer food supply.
Jerry Welcome is president of the Reusable Packaging Association. For more information visit reusables.org