Secondary packaging for CSA deliveries

Asked December 22, 2013, 7:26 PM EST


I am on the board of 25 Farms, a Denver-based organization delivering fresh, local produce to customers on a bi-weekly basis. I am exploring packaging options for our deliveries.

Currently, the produce is packed in compostable bags, which are placed in a single-use cardboard box. This is not financially or environmentally sustainable, and I would love to reuse the outer box if possible.

Are there any FDA rules (or other requirements) prohibiting the reuse of cardboard boxes or more durable crates in a situation such as this? We would basically give a delivery in one box and take back that box the following week, at which time the customer would receive their new delivery in a different box (i.e., swap it out). We couldn't guarantee the same boxes would be used with the same customers on an on-going basis.

The produce will continue to be placed in bags inside the box, but the bags are not sealed and it is possible that the tops of the produce will come in contact with the box it is placed in.

Thanks for your input!
Sarah Martinez

Denver County Colorado

4 Responses

Hi Sarah,
Your question came to me through the eXtension system also so I will relay the earlier answer. Produce crates need to be cleanable if they are to be reused so the best option is to purchase food grade bins, crates, or totes and clean and sanitize them between uses. Cardboard boxes can only be treated as single use containers for fresh produce.
Good luck with your project, I hope this helps.

Very helpful! Thank you.

Is there an FDA reg, USDA guidance, or some other source for this? I need to familiarize myself with applicable requirements.

Also, if a regular cardboard box was lined with a disposable plastic lining, could the box be reused since it wouldn't come in contact with the food?

Many thanks for your input. Happy holidays!

Oh, that was from me - Sarah Martinez at 25 Farms.

Sarah, for more information, I would suggest checking on the FDA's produce safety webpage -
and also the Produce Safety Alliance website:
Lining produce boxes with plastic bags would not work because there is still a high risk of cross contamination and there would be no way to effectively clean and sanitize the boxes if they are made of cardboard.