Cardboard boxes in food safety are inescapable when it comes to manufacturing and transport of food products. It is a cost-effective way of being able to transport products. And there are obvious benefits in recyclability.
Yet, cardboard boxes in food safety, as a rule, are not safe for usage and for storage of foods in a kitchen. Here’s why:
- These boxes come into contact with areas that are dirty and would otherwise be in areas where food is not safe to keep.
- Packaging by its nature is NOT stored a safely as food is required to be stored.
- The kitchen takes on the risk of the supplier delivering the product.
- The kitchen does not know how and in what conditions the boxes were kept in transported in. The visible appearance is not a true indicator that these boxes are clean.
- Pests have been known to lay eggs in the corrugated areas of the boxes( spaces between the boards meant for insulation).
- These are not always visible, and before you know it, you’ve got a pest infestation.
- Harmful bacteria are able to survive on wet cardboard which encourages cross-contamination, rather than reducing the risks.
What about single-layered boards?
The singled layered boards, don’t have spaces to allow pest infestation. True. And these have generally been accepted as okay in the food safety industry. However, there is still the risk of damage which opens the foods contained within to the outside environment which affects quality and safety. In addition, the risk of wet boards supporting the growth of bacteria is still present.
What are the solutions?
Ideally eliminating boards once received into the kitchen is the best option. Products can be transferred to sealable containers that prevent damage to the product and prevent cross-contamination concerns.
Sourcing alternative packaging for items that bruise easily is available such as foam packaging.
Keeping the use of cardboard to the absolute minimum. Such as mushrooms only. And single-layered boxes if absolutely necessary.
What about boxes for frozen products?
Cardboard boxes are acceptable for frozen products, but purely from a practical perspective. Meaning, it is often impossible to get the product out of the box without thawing the product in order to do so.
In such circumstances, once the product is ready to be thawed and used, the box should be stored in an area of the fridge dedicated for this purpose and away from possibly of cross-contamination. Read more about this in our article on “how to handle foods safely”. And removing the boxes once it’s possible.