The sampled RPCs had varying levels of sanitation. Overall, 64% of all RPCs failed the researcher’s set sanitary standards in total aerobic counts. All of the containers passed in the E. coli/coliform counts.
Warriner suspects two situations are at the root of contamination.
First, the RPCs are sent back to the poolers without further cleaning. Second, the containers are being washed but not sanitized.
“There’s a difference between cleaning and sanitizing,” he said.
In conclusion, Warriner suggests that though no pathogens were detected, the RPC decontamination method should be revised.
“There’s nothing wrong with plastic trays,” Warriner acknowledged. “The fact is, there are systems that can successfully clean these trays.”
No pathogens, no change
According to Welcome, cleaning is an integral step in the circulation of the containers.
He argues there is no need to monitor safety standards within the Reusable Packaging Association because each pooler has to meet the standards of Manhattan, Kan.-based AIB International.
“If the member companies felt it would be advantageous for RPA to help establish an industry-recognized safety standard we would do it, but the AIB is recognized as one of the food industry’s leading food safety organizations, and their standards and guidelines are generally recognized as acceptable safety standards,” he said.