The corrugated box industry generally keeps a low profile, but we have recently taken part in a debate about safe packaging use in Canada.
This debate came to light after the release of a study from the University of Guelph, which raised concerns about food safety risks associated with shipping produce in reusable plastic containers (RPCs).
Last summer Dr. Keith Warriner, Professor of Food Safety assessed the microbiological standards of RPCs used in different fresh produce packing stations in Canada. He found significant variation in the sanitary status of RPCs, and concluded that systems in place to clean the containers are not effective. His report showed RPCs pose food safety risks and possibly food contamination.
Concern of inadequate RPC sanitization is unique to Canada as containers need to be shipped to the US for cleaning. In Ontario, for example, they are shipped to Chicago. In Dr. Warriner’s study, he indicated several crates he tested had labels affixed from previous use and this would indicate the decontamination process had not been performed or was insufficient.
The Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association commissioned the study following health concerns expressed by our customers (the growers) who were being told to ship their produce using RPCs, rather than the traditional choice, corrugated boxes.
While we obviously have a natural opposition to the commercial growth of the RPC industry in Canada, we firmly believe using this particular system to ship food may be problematic for retailers. Together with fruit and vegetable growers across the country, we want to ensure all produce reaches its final destination safely.
Packaging is constantly evolving to meet changing social, economic and environmental needs, though the corrugated industry prides itself on manufacturing and distributing a tried and true product.
In terms of safety, we believe corrugated boxes are the best vehicles for food transportation. The corrugated box is always new and, unlike RPCs, does not require washing or sterilizing.
Canadian manufacturing facilities operate under strict food safety standards including Safe Quality Food (SGF) 2000, a recognized scheme under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), American Institute of Baking, HACCP, Good Manufacturing Process, as well as scrutiny from customer’s frequent audits.
The corrugated box is a sustainable product. Unlike RPCs, it is made from a renewable resource (trees); is mostly 100% recycled content (old boxes collected from the back of supermarkets or from curbside); and is widely recyclable and compostable.
We value our customers and want them to ship their goods using the best and safest packaging.
For information about the report visit www.cccabox.org .
David Andrews is Executive Director of the Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association, a group promoting industry competitiveness and sustainability.