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Food for thought

06 October 2019

Ensuring the safe transit of food and drink products through the supply chain requires the use of durable, hygienic plastic pallets. Yet with all the different types available, how can you be sure to choose the best one for your application? MD of Goplasticpallets.com Jim Hardisty offers his expert advice.

The food and drink industry is one of the most strictly regulated sectors in the UK. EU legislation, notably Regulation 178/2002, is in place to provide businesses with the general principles of food safety and food law covering everything from the traceability and presentation of food to the withdrawal or recall of unsafe food placed on the market. Yet one key area of food safety that the regulation fails to address is transportation.

The Food Standards Agency advises on its website that: “When you transport food, you must prevent it from becoming contaminated, for example with dirt and bacteria. It is especially important to make sure that food is transported in packaging or containers that protect it from contamination.”

Concern over food contamination is the main factor that has driven so many businesses to switch from using wooden pallets to plastic ones over the last five years. Nails and splinters as well as the chemical treatments applied to wooden pallets to repel pests have each in the past been linked to product recall incidents; not to mention the fact that wood is inherently absorptive, therefore presenting the ideal environment for harmful pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria to grow.
Our challenge today is not so much convincing food businesses why they should transition away from wooden pallets towards plastic, but rather educating them about the wide variety of plastic pallets available on the market so they can make an informed decision about the product they choose for their application.

So, what are the different options and how are they commonly used?

Lightweight nestable plastic pallets
Nestable plastic pallets offer a cost-effective solution for lightweight applications with evenly spread loads of up to 1,000kg. They can range in weight from 6.7kg to a mere 3.2kg and are available in different sizes with either an open or closed deck – depending on the intended use. They can also be stacked up to 50 pallets high when empty, which can save valuable storage space in the warehouse and reduce the cost of return journey transportation.
Applications in which we’ve seen them used include shipping frozen food from the UK to Europe, distributing chilled meat products and storing dried food and ingredients.

Medium duty plastic pallets
Durable in design, medium duty pallets are ideal for handling moderate weight loads up to 4000kg and offer easy racking from 400kg to 800kg. They can be used repeatedly in a closed loop scenario which can offer both financial and environmental savings. Manufactured from either recycled or virgin plastic, medium duty pallets are specified for the widest range of food applications as they come with so many different options as standard. These include different sizes and colours, a choice of deck (open or closed), and full-perimeter or non-perimeter versions. Additional options include edge lips, RFID inserts and screen-printed ID.
Customers using our medium duty pallets include a long-established producer of feed additives and other agricultural products, a global leader in the development of brewing processing aids and a world-leading producer of responsible packaging for the food, beverage and pharma industries.

Heavy duty plastic pallets
A strong workhorse, heavy duty pallets are recommended for supporting heavy loads up to 8000kg and can support between 1000kg to 2000kg in transit and racking. If your business is moving products in bulk or involves high levels of automated handling, then these are the pallets for you. The two food industries our heavy duty pallets are most prolifically used in include the milling industry for delivering flour and the drinks industry for distributing a diverse range of beverages. 

Ultra-hygienic plastic pallets
For food production areas ultra-hygienic plastic pallets are the only viable option. Manufactured from the highest food grade virgin HDPE, they have totally smooth, sealed surfaces and are fully compliant with EU safety legislation. Free from joints, slots and other cavities, they have been specially designed to prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust, ensuring optimum hygiene conditions are maintained as they transit through the factory.