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Hygiene Check

Wooden pallets are a great option for the food industry

Food and wood together are unhygienic? Not at all, as laboratory tests regularly confirm. Published in 2020, a study conducted by the Institut für Holztechnologie Dresden actually found less bacterial activity on wooden pallets as opposed to plastic pallets. An overview of why load carriers made from wood score points even in hygienically sensitive areas such as the food and pharmaceutical industry.

Dirt particles, bacteria and viruses are never welcome anywhere. However, they are extremely unwelcome in supermarkets, hospitals and many other areas. Which is why one must ensure complete hygiene as early as goods delivery. This is where the material of load carriers comes into play. Due to its porous structure, wood was long suspected of promoting germ growth, while plastic was classified as hygienic because of its smooth, tight and easy to clean surface. “This assumption has now been scientifically disproved”, explains Leonhard Scherer, the Managing Director of Euroblock. The distribution partnership for composite blocks and packaging timber is the leading supplier of the European pallet industry and has been investigating the positive properties of wood for some time.

“Thanks to its porous structure, wood absorbs moisture which means that bacteria cannot survive on its surface. Actually, pine and certain other types of wood actively kill infective germs,” says Scherer.

Focus on: Microbial load on used pallets

A recent study supports the pro-wood arguments when it comes to materials. Between February 2018 and December 2019 the independent Institut für Holztechnologie Dresden studied the microbial properties of standard EPAL Europallets compared to H1 plastic pallets in the laboratory.*** As per regular practise in the transport industry only used load carriers were examined, in particular pallet types of all qualities available on the market. The test specimens were received from retailers and removed from the regular load carrier cycle and were not cleaned before the certified test procedure took place. 

The scientists focused on the germs Escherichia coli (a bacterium that indicates faecal matter) and Staphylococcus aureus (one of the most common infectious agents with multi-resistant forms). The study put particular emphasis on the rough surface of wooden pallets as a supposed weak point. The team was able to prove that the natural properties of wood actually counteract the growth of micro-organisms in a measurable way, while worn, rough spots on used plastic pallets provide an ideal breeding ground. Under the conditions stated, wooden pallets deliver an anti-bacterial activity that is 13 times higher than that of H1 plastic pallets.

*** The hygiene study was commissioned by Gütegemeinschaft Paletten e. V. , which – as the German National Committee of the European Pallet Association e.V. (EPAL) – is responsible for assuring the quality of EPAL pallets and EPAL box pallets in Germany. You can look up the entire final study report online at:

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Bacteria, fungi & co.: Wood is actually more hygienic than plastic

The study debunks another argument often brought forth by plastic pallet manufacturers: With proper cleaning, detected bacteria and fungi can be effectively removed from wood pallets. Even simple cleaning with water can significantly reduce the bacterial load. Another benefit of wooden pallets is that microbial infestation, in particular by moulds, is sometimes very obvious which makes discarding the pallet in time easy. Infestation on plastic pallets, on the other hand, is difficult to spot with the naked eye even in advanced stages.

Even simple cleaning with water can significantly reduce the bacterial load.

In total, the study shows that bacteria have a generally harder time surviving on wood than on plastic. “Thanks to this result we can assume that wooden pallets are by no means worse than plastic pallets from a hygienic standpoint, but actually provide significant advantages”, the authors conclude. Provided, of course, and this is true regardless of the material, that the strict hygiene regulations for the production, transport and storage of foodstuffs are adhered to and that the pallets are constantly checked and regularly maintained. So what is needed are solid load carriers made of high-quality components that stand the test of time in what can be a rough everyday logistics environment. 

Supplier Euroblock guarantees high quality standards

Blocks and sawn timber at constantly high quality are the basis for the successful wooden pallet. Euroblock’s composite blocks are made of natural softwood chips and processed recycled wood chips that are pressed at high temperature and pressure. As a no-solid-wood material particle board blocks are a particularly sustainable and environmentally friendly wood product: They are free from CFCs, don’t require chemical wood protection and can be recycled or thermally utilised at the end of its life cycle. Contrary to solid wood blocks, particle board blocks don’t require Sirex treatment and are mould and insect resistant thanks to their low moisture content. Euroblock packaging timber is mainly made of pine which is particularly good at killing germs. Modern production systems and quality assurance guarantee smooth surfaces, cutting accuracy and dimensional stability. Pallet and packaging timber manufacturers source wood freshly or in artificially dried form as it is strictly required for export packaging, for instance. A blue stain protection treatment to fight off wood-discolouring fungi is carried out on customer request.

Wysoki opór wyciągania gwoździ

Odporność na atak owadów (zabiegi SIREX nie są konieczne)

Brak pęknięć materiału

Odporność na atak pleśni

Trwałe zachowanie kształtu przy wahaniach temperatury

Zachowanie wymiarów przy stałym poziomie wilgotności

Wodoodporne spoiwo

Wysłużone klocki można przekazać do recyklingu lub użyć jako opał w atestowanych urządzeniach (klasyfikacja ogniowa Euroklasa A2)

Wooden pallets have been on trend for decades

“60 years after their invention, wooden pallets still play a significant role in almost all fields of modern warehouse and transport logistics. Many of our customers produce pallets and wooden crates that are used in highly hygienically sensitive areas such as food production or the pharmaceutical industry”, Leonhard Scherer comments on the unbroken popularity of wooden pallets. Apart from the hygienic benefits mentioned, factors such as great ecological performance, sustainability, reusability and cost efficiency are deciding aspects. “Wooden pallets are high-tech load carriers made of regrowing resources and are perfect for our times. I’m sure they will serve us for a long time to come”, Euroblock's Managing Director optimistically predicts.

© Shutterstock 693431872 / XanderSt

Fun Fact:

Inspired by DIY and upcycling trends, a popular trend for furniture made of Europallets has developed in the last 10 years. Again, chemical-free, at most heat-treated wooden pallets from Europe are perfectly suited for a second life on one's deck, balcony or garden from an ecological and health-related perspective.