Reusable plastic containers used to transport fruits and vegetables have proliferated across the grocery industry in recent years despite recent warnings from university research studies suggesting the containers may harbor and spread harmful pathogens over time.

Responding to critics, the Reusable Packaging Association (RPA) has issued comprehensive, science-based protocols for the use of grocery containers for produce, while at the same time maintaining that no documented food safety issues have arisen related to their use.

The guidelines cover the best practices for washing and handling reusable plastic containers (RPCs), as well as outlines for regular microbiological testing. For growers, key food safety practices should include wrapping pallets of RPCs, transporting RPCs in covered trailers, and storing RPCs under cover, the RPA said. The association also asks retailers to handle and load RPC pallets like any other packaged commodity.

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