ORLANDO, Fla., March 4 The need to set national sanitary standards on the pallet industry to curb the threat of contamination to the U.S. food supply was drawn into sharp relief by a just-issued report by the Produce Safety Project showing acute foodborne illness costs the nation $152 billion annually in healthcare, workplace and other economic losses.
The report, which is a joint effort by the PEW Charitable Trusts and Georgetown University, comes on the heels of independent tests by iGPS showing wooden pallets harbor dangerous levels of bacteria and deadly pathogens including Salmonella, E. Coli, and Listeria.
"This report, combined with our independent tests and the many recent recalls of everyday products from Tylenol to peanut butter, again underscores that the American people need a greater sense of security that their food and drug supply is safe from all contamination threats, including those posed by wood pallets," said Bob Moore, Chairman & CEO, Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS Company LLC).
"It is imperative that Congress require all pallets meet minimum sanitary standards, many of which are already acknowledged by the wood pallet industry."
The report supports the results of independent tests recently commissioned by iGPS in cities from Portland, Maine to New Orleans that found Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria and extremely high bacteria counts on scores of wood pallets pulled at random from public markets and retail food outlets. In New Orleans, for example, 43 percent of wood pallets tested at an independent scientific laboratory came back positive for E. coli, Listeria and/or Salmonella. One wood pallet tested positive for all three food-poisoning bacteria. The results are consistent with similar findings by USDA and FDA.
The PEW study provides the costs associated with dangerous pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella with a further breakdown by state. According to the PEW report:
The FDA drew attention to the health risks posed by wood pallets in Guidance for Industry: Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Refrigerated or Frozen Ready-To-Eat Foods (February, 2008), "In areas where RF-RTE [refrigerated-ready to eat] foods are processed or exposed, we recommend that you use pallets that can be easily cleaned and keep them in good condition, and that you not use wood pallets in areas where RF-RTE foods are processed or exposed or in other areas for wet processing and storage."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 76 million food-borne illness cases occur every year in the United States. Salmonella bacteria cause at least 40,000 illnesses a year in the U.S., and an estimated 400 deaths, the CDC reports. E. coli is a potentially lethal group of bacteria that every year sickens more than 70,000 Americans. And Listeriosis is responsible for 2,500 illnesses and 500 deaths in the United States annually - the leading cause of death among food-borne bacterial pathogens.
iGPS operates the world's first pallet rental service providing shippers and receivers with all-plastic pallets with embedded RFID tags. iGPS' state-of-the-art pallets are 30 percent lighter than wood, which saves on transport costs and helps reduce green house gases. Its pallets are also more hygienic, easier to handle and, because they eliminate protruding nails and splinters, reduce workplace injuries and damaged equipment. Embedded RFID tags enable shippers and receivers to track and trace shipments. And iGPS pallets are 100% recyclable. Launched in March 2006, the company has created nearly 2,000 new green jobs in the U.S. and is led by pallet and supply chain veterans with decades of experience. iGPS (www.igps.net) is headquartered in Orlando, FL.
-- The total annual cost to U.S. residents of E. coli-related illnesses is more than $1 billion annually; the total cost of Listeria-related illnesses is $8.8 billion and Salmonella-related cases cost nearly $15 billion -- Annual health-related costs of foodborne illness in Pennsylvania are $6.7 billion; Maryland, $2.8 billion; Louisiana, $2.3 billion; Maine, $683 million; and the District of Columbia, $314 million