Wash process of IFCO RPCs: maintaining strict global standards to ensure food safety

To our customers, food safety is paramount. So, at IFCO, we require all our wash facilities to follow our strict global standards. IFCO knows that food safety is just as important to our customers as freshness and quality. That’s why we adhere to strictly enforced standards of global hygiene and sanitation in our wash facilities.

Rigorous cleaning processes, continuously improved

After each use, IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) are recollected and sent to one of our validated wash centers. There, IFCO RPCs are cleaned according to the highest food safety standards and strictly enforced global hygiene and sanitization standards. Our RPCs are prewashed, washed, rinsed and sanitized with disinfectant before they are sent into the field again.

IFCO uses the same washing and drying processes worldwide. Our cleaning, wash and sanitation process is designed to remove any organic material on the surfaces.

During the cleaning process, IFCO RPCs are sent through high-pressure wash machines that use caustic detergents and environmentally-approved sanitizers designed specifically for tunnel wash machines. Then RPCs go through a double rinse using disinfectant and fresh water rinse. The system utilizes an ideal combination of detergent and disinfectant, water temperature, high flow spray and wash time to achieve optimal results.

How do we ensure the hygiene of IFCO RPCs?

Our SmartCycle™ cleaning process means you can be confident that every IFCO RPC you use meets our strict global standards for hygiene. The antimicrobial used in our wash process reduces to safe levels or eliminates microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, yeast and molds.

Based on our wash process, our global sanitation partner has provided a guarantee that our RPCs are safe for reuse. In addition, our highly automated wash processes are monitored and subject to continuous improvement and validation by IFCO and independent third-party food safety experts, to ensure they are as thorough and effective as possible.

Our SmartCycle™ RPC cleaning process

Through the IFCO SmartCycle™ RPC cleaning process, our RPCs are washed according to the highest standards in the RPC industry. In this way, we ensure the most efficient and effective cleaning and drying processes for our RPCs. Our SmartCycle™ cleaning process means you can be confident that the IFCO RPCs you use meet our strict global standards for hygiene. To our customers, food safety is paramount. So, at IFCO we require our wash facilities to follow our strict global hygiene standards.

Our RPC service centers:

  • Are equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, developed in collaboration with our suppliers
  • Carefully select the detergents and disinfectants, keeping micro-organisms, toxic substances and other impurities at safe levels
  • Are audited by independent third parties, ensuring consistently high quality

IFCO SmartGuardian™ digital technology monitors the process

Our processes are continuously monitored electronically via SmartGuardian™, our proprietary wash process control system, with the data regularly validated. This system continuously monitors wash temperature, pressure, detergent concentration, sanitizer concentration, and produces a shift report.

In addition, SmartGuardian™ alerts our food safety managers if any part of the system is operating at a sub-optimal level, so the process can be stopped and recalibrated to its proper settings. We also manually monitor each variable at least two times per shift to verify that our automated system is in compliance.

Detergents and disinfectants

IFCO service centers use standardized highly efficient detergents and disinfectants to ensure the hygiene of IFCO RPCs washed through our validated cleaning and sanitation program.

Our global sanitation partner has provided IFCO with a guarantee saying that RPCs cleaned and disinfected in the recommended manner are compliant with applicable national and international regulation and any local regulations that might apply and that the residue levels of microorganisms, toxic substances, and other impurities will be compliant with maximum levels established in the applicable regulations in the country of operation.

Additionally, the use of RPCs properly cleaned and disinfected will not result in microbial contamination or the transfer of toxic substances or other impurities (such as pesticide residues) from the IFCO containers to the products they contain.

The guarantee covers removal or inactivation of the following contaminants

Food-borne pathogenic germs and toxin-producing micro-organisms, like:

  • Listeria monocytogeneses
  • Salmonella
  • Eschericia coli serotypes (STEC, EHEC 0104:H4, O157:H7, 0111:H2)
  • Campylobaceter jejuni
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Influenza A virus type H5N1 "bird flu"
  • Peppino mosaic virus
  • Peppino mosaic potexvirus
  • Sigatoka Negra (Mycosphaerella fijiensis)
  • Molds
  • Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and their degradation products
  • Compounds belonging to different chemical families (triazines, organophosphorous, carbamates, phenylureas, neonicotinoids, etc.)
  • Cucumber Green Mottle Mosaic Virus (CGMMV)
  • Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV)

ISO-certified wash process and hygiene testing

IFCO RPC recollection, wash, and shipment process is ISO 9001 certified. In addition, our tunnel wash process was validated by a third-party ISO certified research lab on the effectiveness of eliminating attached bacteria, as well as viruses, from the surfaces of IFCO RPCs.

To verify that our wash process is effective, IFCO and independent food safety experts routinely test sanitized RPCs for the absence of pathogens. This includes our robust hygiene monitoring system at our service centers, including daily ATP monitoring, as well as weekly and quarterly bacterial swabbing.

When concern or an alert on specific contaminants or microorganisms arises, IFCO performs a series of extra "wash challenges" with additional testing to verify the absence of such pathogens.

IFCO stores wash data to give you a pallet-level audit trail for food safety. If a contamination problem does arise somewhere in your supply chain, you will be able to demonstrate that your IFCO RPCs met all the necessary compliance standards before loading and distribution, as far as IFCO is accountable for.

IFCO – Your trusted food safety partner

For IFCO, food safety is a priority. IFCO is committed to food safety and the hygiene of our reusable plastic containers (RPCs).

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