New Study:

Reusable Plastic Containers reported cleaning procedures fail industry and EPA standards; new independent research finds that only autoclaving worked to rid containers of Salmonella


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Reusable Plastic Containers reported cleaning procedures fail industry and EPA standards; new independent research finds that only autoclaving worked to rid containers of Salmonella

October 22, 2015

The newest research from the Center for Food Safety at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Food Science documents that multiple hurdles continue to exist in ensuring reusable plastic containers (RPCs) are clean and lack microbial contamination above safe levels. Failure of cleaning procedures can lead to spoilage and promulgation of foodborne pathogens such as Salmonella, prior to packaging and storing fresh produce, meats and eggs.

Following the results of its independent study conducted in 2014, the Center for Food Safety under the leadership of Dr. Steven Ricke went beyond testing of biofilms attachment on multi-use RPCs and conducted a series of four new studies to test sanitizers outlined by the RPC industry in its recently published materials.

"MULTI-USE PACKAGING CAN BE A SOURCE FOR CONTAMINATION FROM EITHER COMING IN CONTACT WITH TAINTED FOOD PRODUCT AND RETURNING TO THE DISTRIBUTION STREAM, OR CONTAMINATING NEW PRODUCT FROM PACKAGING WHICH CONTAINS LIVE CELLS THAT CANNOT BE REMOVED FROM CLEANSING PROCESSES." – Dr. Steven Ricke, University of Arkansas

To test sterilization, the new study also exceeded concentrations by 1,000 times and doubled exposure times deemed safe for consumable food contact by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and were still unable to achieve recommended levels for sanitization.

This research is unique in that the Center for Food Safety studied RPCs previously used in the distribution stream, according to Dr. Ricke.

"While we know biofilms cannot be removed with commercial and industrial methods, we wanted to see how many cells of the most common, Salmonella, actually could be removed, if any, by using and exceeding industry and regulatory agencies methods, testing four variances such as chemicals and exposure times," said Dr. Ricke.

"ONLY ONE CELL LEFT BEHIND CAN MULTIPLY, TRANSFER, SPOIL PRODUCT OR ULTIMATELY, MAKE SOMEONE SICK." - Dr. Steven Ricke, University of Arkansas

After sanitization, the number of Salmonella cells remaining on the individual coupons consistently exceeded the 1,000 organism limit expected on clean RPC surfaces.

None of the microbially contaminated RPC coupons treated with the EPA maximum allowable food-contact sanitizer concentrations resulted in residual counts less than 1,000. In fact, the residual number of Salmonella organism counts ranged from 2,700 to 5.1 million after sanitization, according to the study.

"THE DATA SHOWS SOAP IS JUST SOAP WHEN FIGHTING HARMFUL BACTERIA. USING BIG WORDS OR SCARY SOUNDING CHEMICALS DOESN’T CHANGE THAT." – Dr. Steven Ricke, University of Arkansas

In pre-lab sterilization testing, Dr. Ricke also reports the researchers had great difficulty removing any remnants of microorganisms on the RPCs. Only RPC coupons that underwent sanitization and disinfection with 70 percent ethanol after autoclaving in pre-testing were able to pass acceptable levels.

Autoclaving, Dr. Ricke notes, is only used in laboratories, and the costly, pressurized, steam sterilization vessel is not typically found in commercial settings or are disinfectants used with consumable food products.

To learn more about this study and additional facts about food packaging, sign up for our e-newsletter by clicking here or email info@corrugateddelivers.com.

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