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News and Trends from Across the Food Supply Chain


RPCs: No More Of A Fire Risk Than Corrugated Containers

Reusable plastic containers (RPCs) filled with commodities require no additional fire safety measures than when the same products are stored in corrugated containers, according to an independent study conducted for the Reusable Pallet & Container Coalition (RPCC), Washington.

"This study proves that plastic containers filled with produce and meat commodities do not pose any additional fire safety concerns than products stored in corrugated containers, removing yet another perceived barrier to the use of reusables," says Jeanie Johnson, executive director, RPCC.

"Every customer needs to understand the risks associated with everything that moves through their DCs and stores. This study proves that filled RPCs in cold temperature environments—as well as other storage temperatures—are a low fire-risk hazard."

Most standard warehouses use wet pipe sprinkler systems. However, many perishable items are warehoused in cold rooms maintained at 34 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Whereas storage areas generally use wet pipe sprinkler systems, cold storage warehouses use dry pipe sprinklers to reduce the chance of water freezing in the sprinkler pipes.

The testing results verified that commodities stored in RPCs ranked in Commodity Class I and Commodity Class II, concluding that customers do not have to make special sprinkler provisions.

The tests were carried out by CE Tech, LLC, at the Department of Fire Technology at San Antonio's Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) over a one week span. The RPCC worked with a retailer, insurance companies, fire risk consultants and fire testing experts to establish a battery of tests. Ranking and final commodity classifications were determined by calculating four industry standard fire performance parameters for the commodity/RPC systems tested and comparing them to ranking tables.

"The results were quite striking," says Charles J. Lancelot, Ph.D., principal consultant, CE Tech. "They confirmed that when the commodities tested and their equivalents, are stored in standard reusable plastic containers in the typical arrays used in warehouses, stores and DCs equipped with fire suppression systems rated for Class II commodities, the RPC-stored commodities will be well within the capabilities of the installed sprinkler system. There will be no measurable risk entailed as compared with the same products stored in corrugated containers."

The RPCC tested produce and meat to better understand the fire risks associated with shipping and storing perishables in plastic containers. The RPCC chose lemons and tomatoes in plastic clam shells in RPCs as worst case produce commodities and meat grinds in case-ready packaging as a worst case meat commodity.

The highly combustible fat content of the meat grinds, the high known citrus oil content in the lemons, and the plastic clamshell-packed, high-water-content tomatoes were chosen to span the most representative range of combustibility risk.

Following the testing, the case-ready meat in nestable meat trays was assigned a Class I rating, while lemons in RPCs were assigned a Class II rating. The clamshell-packed tomatoes in RPC's did not even trigger the water suppression system and fell below the ranking tables.

This keeps the plastic container offerings in the same classifications range as the sprinkler systems currently used with their corrugated counterparts. Class I is the lowest rating for fire risk; Group A is the highest.

Supervalu To Divide Ohio Distribution Center

Supervalu Inc. announced plans last month to move jobs from an Ohio distribution center to Minnesota and Virginia.

The Eden Prairie, MN-based company says an indeterminate number of jobs at its 200-employee distribution complex in Xenia, OH, will be consolidated at other shipping centers in Minnesota and Virginia this summer.

The Ohio Valley Distribution Center employed about 280 workers as of mid-2007. The distribution operations won't be affected by the moves, the company said.

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