Dodd Letter Sets Off another Pallet Battle

With less than a month left to his 30-year career in the U.S. Senate, Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg last month, urging the agency to notify “food manufacturers, transporters and retailers inspected by the FDA that plastic pallets containing decaBDE are inappropriate for use in scenarios that may bring decabromine into contact with food.”

Decabrominated diphenyl ether, a fire retardant found in some plastic products, has been linked in some studies to cancer and brain dysfunction. Dodd recommended the FDA “Develop and disseminate education and training materials for FDA inspectors to enable them to identify plastic pallets that contain decaBDE, recognize scenarios of use that may bring decaBDE into food contact, and be provided clear guidance regarding enforcement and reporting requirements.”

Shortly after this letter was sent, the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA) issued a press release detailing the letter’s content.

This set off another war of words between NWPCA and Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS Company, LLC), an operator of a pallet rental service providing all-plastic pallets to the food and grocery industry as well as many others. Bob Moore, chairman and CEO of iGPS, issued a press release of his own, in which he questioned Dodd’s motives.

“Asking a politician in his final minutes in office to submit a letter … at the obvious request of the wooden pallet industry, is cynical and disingenuous,” he said “There is not a morsel of truth in former Senator Dodd’s letter. Either the Senator was purposely misled or he decided to do a friend a last-minute favor by repeating spoon-fed mistruths and scare tactics.”

Moore has said that wood pallets are susceptible to insect infestation and require heat treatment or fumigation before they can move cross-border. He has further noted that fumigants, such as methyl bromide, have been labeled by scientists and environmentalists as harmful to the earth’s protective ozone layer and that wood pallet nails can penetrate food packaging and thus contaminate food.

Moore has also cited a series of independent tests that showed that up to 30 percent of wood pallets contain E. Coli and Salmonella, pathogens he says are commonly found on wood pallets and have been linked to a series of drug recalls.

The NWPCA has cited a German Institute for Food Technology study comparing wood and plastic pallets used in meat, dairy, vegetable and bakery sectors. The institute found “the overall bacterial count on commercial wood pallets made from different types of wood was an average 15 percent lower than on plastic pallets.”

NWPCA’s web site further states that the recent lawsuit iGPS filed against NWPCA for conspiring to drive it out of business is a “distraction meant to draw attention from the core of what NWPCA is advocating, which is to have a zero tolerance for all polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants in the food and pharmaceutical industries.”

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