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Timber and plastic pallet usage in the food industry

October 17, 2023


In the food industry, pallets are used for the safe and efficient transport and storage of food products. When choosing a pallet that’s right for your business needs, it’s essential to have an understanding of the specific requirements of pallets within the food industry. At Cooperage Pallets, we offer a variety of pallet choices, including timber and plastic pallets, and can also provide tailored advice and quotes to make this process as stress-free as possible. 


In the meantime, we’ve put together this quick guide to explain how timber and plastic pallets are used in the food industry, taking you through safety compliance, selection for different food types, and how to handle and store pallets for reuse. 


Hygiene and Food Safety Compliance


Food industry regulations require pallets to meet certain standards to prevent contamination. When using timber pallets for food exports, ensure they are heat-treated and chemically treated to comply with ISPM 15 regulations: the international standard for solid wood packaging material. ISPM 15 regulations are enforced to minimise the risk of pests and diseases being transported globally. In Australia, ISPM 15 marked packaging may be reused and recycled for second-hand use.


Timber pallets are relatively easy to clean and sanitise, but can absorb more moisture during transport. This may not be a problem depending on the food products you are shipping, but for those that require a high level of hygiene such as poultry, eggs or dairy products, plastic pallets are recommended as a safer alternative. Plastic pallets are also perfect for export use and are accepted all over the world. 


Pallet Selection for Different Food Types 


As discussed briefly above, there are a variety of factors to consider when selecting pallets for different food types, including the type of food, packaging, storage conditions and transportation requirements. For example, wooden pallets are typically used for dry and non-perishable foods such as canned goods, grains and packaged snacks, however, can also be used for fresh produce with the proper protection. 


On the other hand, plastic pallets can be suitable for a wider range of food products and are commonly used to transport fresh produce, meat, poultry and dairy. This is because these pallets are food grade, more resistant to moisture, chemicals and pests, and are easy to sanitise. Consider the environmental impact when selecting your plastic pallets, which tend to be more cost-effective. At Cooperage Pallets, we use recycled HDPE plastic and design our pallets for durability over time. 


When selecting the right pallet for your business needs, consider adding pallet accessories such as liners, covers, wraps or straps to secure and protect your products during transit. 


Pallet Handling and Storage Practices


In addition to choosing the right type of pallets for your specific food products, it’s essential to implement proper handling and storage practices to maintain safety. If you’re buying pallets, regularly inspect them for any signs of damage, wear or contamination. Damaged timber or plastic pallets can pose a risk of harbouring bacteria. Ensure that pallets are stored in a clean, dry and well-ventilated area, and kept off the ground. Pallet racks or shelving systems can guarantee a pallet’s storage is organised and hygienic. 


When cleaning either timber or plastic pallets, be sure to use food-safe cleaning agents and follow the recommended procedures for eliminating potential contaminants. Pallets must be dried thoroughly before reuse. 


Understanding the specific requirements of your food business is the most important step in determining your timber and plastic pallet needs. Consider factors such as hygiene and food safety compliance, which material suits your product, and how to handle and store your pallets. If you need further assistance, contact Cooperage Pallets for tailored advice and recommendations.