McNeil recalls touch off pallet worries

Johnson & Johnson drug recalls this year put pallets in the spotlight. Produced in a McNeil Consumer Healthcare plant in Puerto Rico, J&J's recalled drugs had a moldy or musty smell that could cause illness, and that odor was tied to a chemical called tribromophenol, or TBP. It's a fungicide used to treat pallets, one that is banned in the United States.

Now manufacturers are in a tizzy about whether to use mold-preventive treatments on the pallets they use to ship and store their products. According to Pallet Enterprise, manufacturers are leery of using any fungicides despite the fact that products sold in the U.S. weren't implicated in the drug recalls. They're seeking FDA approval of every treatment, including using common cleaning tools like bleach and soap.

Meanwhile, pallets appear to be more mold-prone than ever. Log inventories are tight, so the wood used for pallets hasn't been seasoned and dried as fully as it had been in years past. Higher moisture content equals high risk of mold. Plus, with pallets made around the world now, they're often shipped overseas in containers without worry about mold--until they arrive at their destination with mold on them. Foreign-made pallets also may have been treated with chemicals that aren't approved for use in the U.S., like TBP.

Some manufacturers are staying on the fence until J&J finds its own pallet solution, Pallet Enterprise says.

- read the article in Pallet Enterprise