Reusable containers often contaminated: study
Oct. 31, 2014, Guelph, Ont. — Reusable plastic containers for packaging of produce show troubling signs of being unsanitary, according to a University of Guelph study.
The researchers found visible organic residue, bacteria, mould and yeast in reusable plastic containers (RPCs), which are used to package fruits and vegetables for shipping to retailers.
Some of those problems have worsened since a smaller 2013 study by the same researchers. That is troubling, said lead author Prof. Keith Warriner, Department of Food Science.
“Last year, the crate supplier said they would revise sanitizing procedures, so I was surprised to find things had not changed much,” he said.
The researchers examined 160 crates over a period of up to 10 weeks in Ontario and Quebec. They randomly selected RPCs from different lots of trays that had been delivered on pallets wrapped in plastic.
The researchers visually inspected the containers and tested for food safety indicators (E. coli, Listeria) and spoilage indicators (yeast, mould). They found no listeria, but they did find other indicators.
“Of more concern was the recovery of fecal indicators that included E. coli that strongly suggested the crates had been contacted by either contaminated produce and/or water,” the report said.
Warriner said this is less a consumer concern and more a biosecurity issue for farmers and government officials.
“Plant pathogens could be easily transmitted from one region to another,” he said.
“As an example, if you look at plum pox virus, which was introduced in 2000, it took Ontario 11 years to eradicate the plant pathogen. Although there is a risk of human pathogens being transferred, this would be considered low.”
This new study found some improvements, including fewer damaged containers, and found that Ontario RPCs were cleaner than those in Quebec.
“However, the same issue of labels from previous users and high microbial counts persists. Growers could reject any crates at the point of delivery, but retailers need to do more to ensure standards are being met. Retailers are the ones demanding crates be used.”
The report is titled, “Microbiological Standards for Reusable Plastic Containers Within Produce Grower Facilities Within Ontario and Quebec.”
Subscription CentreNew Subscription Already a Subscriber Customer Service View Digital Magazine Renew
Take notice: Unseen AI innovations to automate greenhouse farmingRapid innovation in machinery and computer technology have lowered barriers…
Ways to reduce greenhouse energy consumptionCanadian greenhouses are expecting a harsh winter in terms of…
National Floriculture Forum releases programThe 2019 National Floriculture Forum is scheduled from February 16-17…
Winter efficiency: Curtains, boilers and coveringsWinter months in the greenhouse are a good time to…
Guelph Organic Conference & TradeshowThu Jan 24, 2019
OFVGA AGMTue Feb 19, 2019
Northwest Flower & Garden ShowWed Feb 20, 2019
Ontario Fruit and Vegetable ConventionWed Feb 20, 2019
Midwest Green Industry Experience – Training DaysTue Mar 05, 2019