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A role for plastic pallets in regulatory compliance

Supply chains are littered with regulations affecting how we manufacture, process, store and transport goods, foods and pharmaceuticals. Businesses must continually optimise operations to ensure products, foods and medicines are handled and delivered efficiently and safely while adhering to strict hygiene regulations and standards.

Understandably, the rules around food and pharmaceuticals are particularly stringent to preserve quality, avoid contamination and protect public health. Reliable, cleanable, and durable food processing equipment is essential for adhering to these standards.

This blog considers how plastic pallets and plastic pallet boxes can play a valuable role in helping to meet regulatory compliance.

Hygienic Plastic Pallets

Safeguarding food production with hygienic solutions

The stakes are high throughout the food industry, from processing, storage and transportation to retail, hospitality and catering. With food-borne illnesses like Salmonella and Campylobacter posing persistent threats, impeccable hygiene is critical. A breach of food health and safety regulations could put you out of business; fines are hefty and reputational damage severe, and not least, the damage to human life could be fatal.

That is why there are so many strict regulations. These include:

  • The Food Standards Act 1999
  • The Food Safety Act 1990
  • General food law
  • Codes of Practice
  • Food Information Regulations

Anyone running a food business must also have a plan based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).

HACCP is a way of managing food safety hazards. As per the Food Standards Agency, it involves:

  • looking closely at what you do in your business, what could go wrong and what risks there are to food safety
  • identifying any critical control points the areas a business needs to focus on to ensure those risks are removed or reduced to safe levels
  • deciding what action you need to take if something goes wrong
  • making sure that your procedures are being followed and are working
  • keeping records to show your procedures are working

Food processing, storing, and distributing must be hygienic to ensure rigorous food and safety standards are met. Hygienic plastic pallets and containers are an essential aid in this process.

Pallets and the food chain: non-primary packaging

Pallets aren’t primary packaging (i.e. they do not usually come into direct contact with the products they carry), but they can still pose a contamination risk. In food supply chains, the types of pallets used can be a concern.

Wooden pallets are still widely used but have fallen under particular scrutiny recently, especially regarding potential bacteria and fungus growth, foreign material risk and the transference of pests (see more on ISPM15 – the export regulation that affects wooden pallets – below).

Plastic pallets are an excellent alternative as they are impervious to liquids, dirt, odour and other substances, making them ideal for industries that require consistent adherence to strict food safety regulations, such as dairy, meat, and seafood. The non-porous surface of plastic pallets is obviously beneficial, whilst specific hygienic models will be designed with completely smooth and closed surfaces, ensuring there’s minimal opportunity for bacteria to hide and grow. As a result, they can be more easily cleaned and sanitised.

We recently helped a leading UK-based dairy specialising in milk and yoghurt production. They faced a particular challenge: they needed a plastic pallet that could withstand constant cleaning to a consistently high standard in their high-care packing area, essential for preventing bacterial growth and cross contamination. We were able to recommend the Cabka Hygiene 1210 5R – a UK-sized hygiene pallet suitable for their specialised washing machines.

Pallets, crates and the food chain: Hygienic primary packaging

Any equipment used in the processing and distribution of food should be hygienic and able to withstand rigorous cleaning to prevent bacterial growth, toxin formation and contamination. Plastic pallets and boxes are ideal, as demonstrated in our recent collaboration with a major food manufacturer of chicken products. We provided a solution that would enable them to defrost chicken evenly, avoiding any potential for cross-contamination and maximising safety. Our GoS&N 64200P, a perforated stack and nest plastic crate, and the white Cabka Hygienic 1210 3R pallet were suitable for going through the customer’s microwave tempering tunnel oven system and undergoing rigorous cleaning in an automated washing machine.

Read more about the benefits of plastic pallets and boxes in the food industry here.

BRC and virgin-grade plastic

While there is a preference to use recycled plastic these days, for many reasons, not least the environmental impact of plastics, there is still a strong case for using virgin plastic in many food processing applications.

For example, where a plastic crate or box comes into direct contact with a food product during a process in a food factory, to meet the food safety standard stipulated by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), it is required to be made from virgin-grade plastic to ensure source traceability of the material and conformity to the accreditation. This is because, with virgin plastic, there can be no conceivable question about food safety regarding the plastic’s suitability.

Once the food is packaged and doesn’t come into direct contact with the container, crates and pallets made from recycled plastic are an option.

At, we take responsibility for the environment seriously – 96% of our plastic pallets are made from 100% recycled household and business plastic waste. Our virgin plastic products, made specifically to meet the stringent rules in the food and pharmaceutical industries, are robust and last ten years or more. In addition, we can collect back the plastic pallets and boxes we supply at the end of their prolonged use and professionally recycle them, so they don’t end up in landfill.

International shipping and ISPM15

ISPM15 is a standard for wood packaging material in international trade. Recognising wood as a pathway for introducing and spreading pests, the regulation, developed by the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures, states that any wooden packaging used to export goods must be heat-treated, stamped, and certified before shipping. Eighty-five countries worldwide have adopted these regulations as a form of pest control.

ISPM15 affects all wood packaging material for export, such as pallets, pallet collars, crates, packing cases and dunnage. It includes anything used to ship goods made from hardwood (raw wood) and softwood.

Using plastic pallets for exports means one less regulatory hoop to jump through.

Plastic pallets are exempt from ISPM15 regulations, making them ideal for export consignments.

Pharmaceuticals: plastic pallet boxes, hygiene requirements and overseas supply chains

Just as in the food industry, there are stringent regulations for transporting medical products and pharmaceuticals.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) regulates medicines, medical devices and blood components for transfusion in the UK. Businesses in the pharmaceutical industry must comply with good manufacturing practices (GMP) and good distribution practices (GDP).

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the quality of pharmaceuticals. The primary regulatory standard in the US for ensuring pharmaceutical quality is the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations for human pharmaceuticals.

Plastic pallets and pallet boxes help pharmaceutical companies comply with various regulatory requirements. They can be easily cleaned and sterilised to ensure the necessary hygiene levels are maintained. The robust construction of pallet boxes also protects pharmaceutical products from damage during storage and transit. Appropriately selected pallet boxes can also be sealed securely, ensuring product integrity by preventing unauthorised access.

Another important consideration for UK-based pharmaceutical companies is the fact many of them are US-owned. So, while distribution may be contained within the UK, it is still worth keeping a close eye on the alignment of production and manufacturing standards. For example, the FDA (a US-body) requires that manufacturers of medications adequately control manufacturing operations. This includes establishing robust quality management systems, obtaining appropriate high-quality raw materials and establishing robust operating procedures.

Another benefit of using plastic pallets and pallet boxes in the pharmaceutical industry is the ability to optimise space utilisation in warehouses and during transportation. Their standard sizing allows for easy stacking, reducing the space required for storage and shipping.

Plastic pallets and workplace safety

Plastic pallets are far safer to handle than those made from wood. They are generally lighter and more structural than their wooden counterparts and aren’t held together with nails, which, if dislodged, could cause injury. Wood pallets are also more likely to break down and shed splinters. There are many regulations to keep workers safe in the warehouse. Mitigating safety risks can be helped by using plastic pallets and pallet boxes.

Get tips on how to prioritise health and safety in your warehouse here.

The value of ISO 8611-2:2021

While ISO certification isn’t a mandatory legal requirement, many industries strive to become ISO-approved to show partners and customers that they are committed to high standards. Importantly, ISO is an international standard recognised all over the world.

ISO stands for the ‘International Organisation for Standardisation.’ An ISO certification demonstrates that your business is compliant with industry standards.

ISO 8611-2:2021 is particularly relevant. It specifies the performance requirements to establish nominal loads for new flat pallets in various handling environments and the performance requirements for tests with payloads. is proud to be partnered with leading manufacturers, including Cabka, SmartFlow and Q-Pall, who use this ISO test criteria to determine the performance stats of pallets, including dynamic, static and rack load specs.

Staying compliant with

Plastic pallets and pallet boxes from can help your business maintain regulatory compliance standards. Our products are tested to ISO standards. All of our hygienic, virgin-plastic food-grade pallets and boxes ensure you can minimise contamination issues.

Please speak with our experts, who will advise you on your pallet needs.