Do you use wooden pallets in your food business?

Wooden pallets can easily become a source of foreign matter if not correctly controlled. In Week 16 of the Food Safety Challenge you are tasked with a couple of different actions around the control of wooden pallets.  For the majority of food businesses, wooden pallets are used to store raw materials, store work in progress or store finished product. Looking at the potential for foreign matter contamination from this source, is there a risk in your food business?

Week 16 of the Food Safety HACCP Challenge

The Challenge set this week is to inspect your wooden pallets for splintering. Wooden pallet splintering can become an issue when the splinters pierce through product packaging.  They can also break off and end up in packaging. In your warehouse area if you have pallet racking in place, any damaged wooden pallets stored above one another can fall down onto the top of product stored below.

Hazard Identification for Wooden Pallets

If you are using wooden pallets anywhere in your food business, I would expect (as an auditor) that you have considered this as a potential hazard.  The following is an example of how this would be written in your HACCP Plan.

Hazard: Wooden Splinters

Category: Foreign matter / Physical Hazard

Source: From wooden transport and storage pallets

How do you control the hazard of wooden pallet splintering?

For a lot of food businesses it may not be feasible to eliminate wooden pallets entirely from the production site. Because of this, control measures need to be implemented to reduce the occurrence of this hazard so contamination of the finished product and raw materials is avoided as much as possible. The most common measures implemented to control wooden pallet splinters include:

  • Putting a robust barrier layer between the wooden pallet surface and the raw material or food product.
  • The use plastic pallets where possible and if affordable with the direct production environment
  • Regularly rotating, inspecting and removing damaged wooden pallets.

Extra task

To ensure that the condition of wooden pallets are regularly reviewed and assessed, make sure that you have included a visual check in your daily, weekly or monthly GMP inspection.

Wrap Up

How did you go? Does your food business have an issue with splintering wooden pallets? Have you ever received complaints or non-conformances for the condition of your wooden pallets? Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

4 thoughts on “Do you use wooden pallets in your food business?”

  1. Showery Cherian

    Good post Amanda!!
    Nice work.
    But will it affect the glass bottle packaging as it is in plastic crates??

  2. Kurt Schuiling

    I have seen wood splinters in boxes of produce that have open lids. But i am more concerned about pallets that have been used for seafood, chicken or chemicals and then reused for iced produce. Obviously there is no way to track what a pallet has been used for. Any ideas?

    1. Thanks for your comment Kurt. Tracking pallet use is a nightmare to achieve. All I would suggest is to ensure that clean robust pallet liners are used between the wooden pallet and the product stacked on top of it. You could also implement procedures in your business to minimise the risk of cross contamination by not placing boxes that have been sitting directly on pallets onto food preparation areas.

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