Does Your Pallet Manufacturer Have a Food Grade Facility? | Pallet Consultants
Facilities and warehouses in supply chains that handle food products need to meet certain hygiene requirements, which extend to pallets and their storage. Pallets and the facilities that store or produce them are responsible for upholding cleanliness standards.
Through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the FDA has mandated a broad set of rules on food monitoring and facility cleanliness. There are no specific regulations for pallets besides that they not harm food, but other rules apply to facilities in food supply chains that use them. Facilities that have a hand in anything related to food production or transportation must be proactive in their approach to pest prevention, general cleanliness, pallet quality monitoring and safe pallet storage.
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One of the first things to judge a pallet facility on is its cleanliness. This is important because multiple issues can be traced back to poor cleaning practices and site management.
In order for a warehouse to safely store or produce pallets without the risk of mold or pests, it must:
- Not have any leaks in the roof, walls or foundation
- Not have any weeds, standing water, trash or signs of rodents in or around the perimeter
- Safely store cleaning supplies, pesticides, and other chemicals separately from the pallets
- No damage to windows, window frames, pipes, or walls that can create openings from the outside
If a pallet facility pays attention to detail with its cleaning of small things, like infrequently used shelving or sawdust and debris, chances are it’s a hygienic facility.
Mold is a worry for any facility that handles food or produces products to be used around food, and pallet manufacturing is no different. Any leaks or openings can allow for water intrusion into the facility, increasing the risk of mold development. This is especially pertinent for wooden pallet producers, where water can seep into the wood and cause rot or molding from the inside out.
A regular, detailed inspection is required to upkeep the quality of the warehouse building and perimeter itself. Having a well-built facility that keeps water out is also a good sign pests are less likely to be an issue since rodents and insects can enter the warehouse in the same places as water.
Rodents and insects can carry with them many diseases and leave behind droppings or carcasses, potentially exposing pallets to many risks. Pests and mold can also be prevented with heat treatment of pallets before they are to be used for food products, but it’s best to start with a reliably clean facility in the first place.
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Many facilities store pallets outside, which for most uses is satisfactory. Food grade pallets should be stored inside at all times, however. This is to avoid the risks of exposure to pests and water as explained in the section above.
- The sun can weather and weaken the plastic and wood in pallets
- Pallets outside can be made into nests by insects, birds and rodents
- Outside storage increases chances of standing in water and mold
When kept inside for production and storage, food grade pallets won’t have the same compromising risks of contamination.
In addition to being stored inside, food grade pallets should also be rotated regularly to allow for cleaning of the space they occupy and prevent pallets from sitting idly too long. Mold is less of a concern indoors but can still happen, so pallet stacks should have enough space between them to allow for proper air circulation.
Pallet Quality Monitoring
The last aspect of a food-safe pallet products and facilities are controls on pallet quality. If a pallet has slight damage which leaves exposed wood splints or nails, that could harm food or food packaging. It’s important for pallet products being used for food to be of the highest quality.
Detailed pallet inspections will confirm pallets are safe for use with food and won’t puncture packaging. Inspections should also look for discoloration in pallets that might indicate the wood has absorbed any liquids or has residue on the surface. Wood itself is safe for contact with food, but liquids can be absorbed into the wood fiber which can contaminate a wooden pallet. Additionally, both plastic and wooden pallets can have a contaminant on their surface which can make them unsafe for use with food. Checking pallets would also show signs of insects or animals if the facility has any openings to the outside.
Operating a food grade pallet facility requires high attention to detail. Multiple procedures in production, storage and quality control must be followed to ensure high quality pallets that have not been exposed to pests, mold or other contaminants. Pallet Consultants has been providing premier pallet products and customer service to the food and beverage industry for decades and has a proven track record of maintaining a food-safe environment in all of our facilities.
As a leading national pallet provider, our goal is not only outstanding products and services, but also best in class customer service. We have over 20 years in the industry and can help you in any situation, anywhere in the country. Whether it’s new or recycled pallets, heat treatment or total pallet management, we can do it all.