ISPM 15: What Every Pallet Purchaser Needs To Know About it

As a manufacturer, you want to ensure that the quality of your products meets the expectations of the consumer. However, when thinking about quality control, the condition of your shipping pallets may be the furthest thing from your mind.

You must keep note that just as the goods you manufacture require adherence to certain quality control policies, the pallets used to ship them must comply with their own set of regulations.

Using ISPM 15 compliant pallets to ship your goods is not only your legal obligation, it will ensure that the products will reach their destination without any hassle.

An acronym for International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15, ISPM 15, has secured its place as an industry standard when it comes to the production of wooden shipping pallets. In order to fully understand why you need to ensure that the wood shipping materials that you use are up to par, it’s always best to do some research.

To assist with your education on ISPM 15, here are some of the key facts you need to know.

First of all, what is ISPM 15?

In a nutshell, it’s the regulation of wood packaging material in international trade. A preventative measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention put into place to reduce the risk of the spread of disease and insects that could potentially pose a threat to ecosystems and plants. It stresses the need to treat the wood products used to ship products internationally.

What is the treatment process for ISPM 15?

For starters, bark must be  removed from the wood within tolerance. ISPM 15 still allows for a small amount of bark to remain on the wood if it falls under specific parameters. Clarification on the bark tolerance can be found here.  This will eliminate the likelihood that your pallets will be infested with bark beetles or any other critter that likes to set up shop in a tree’s bark.

After the bark has been removed, the wood used to construct the pallet must be either heat treated or fumigated.

As environmental impact is a growing concern these days, it is natural to assume that the preferred method for treating wood for ISPM 15 compliance is heat treating the product for a duration 30 minutes at 56 degrees Celsius. This method has been proven to remove any pests that could prove to be hazardous.

Alternatively, the manufacturer may also choose to treat the product through chemical fumigation using Methyl Bromide. This option is equally as effective, however, not as environmentally friendly. So much, in fact, that most developed countries had phased out the use of the product back in 2005.

How do I know if my pallets are compliant?

All ISPM 15 treated wood packaging materials will be marked with an internationally recognized label, known as the IPPC symbol.

IPPC pallets

Using the above example from, here is how an ISPM 15 compliant label will appear.

XX – indicates a two letter ISO country code (a link to these may be found on our Links page).
0000 – the next series of letters/numbers is the unique identification mark of the wood treatment agent or packaging manufacturer. The number of letters or digits may vary according to each country.

The country code and treatment agent or manufacturer code must be separated by a hyphen.

YY – This indicates the type of treatment, and will either be HT (Heat Treatment) or MB (Methyl Bromide).’

Are there any exceptions to ISPM 15?

As any undesired insects and creatures are destroyed during production, reconstituted wood products or any products manufactured using a combination of glue, heat and pressure do not need to adhere to ISPM 15.

Which countries are currently enforcing the ISPM 15 policy?

It can be safe to assume that most major countries have regulated the production of wood packaging materials. However, if you are still unclear if the country you’re shipping to require compliance, a comprehensive list of all countries who currently have ISPM practices into place can be found here.

What could happen if I fail to meet the criteria?

Penalties for non-compliant wood packaging materials vary from country to country. As an example, The Canadian Food Inspection agency outlines their policy on non-compliance:

‘As of July 5th, 2006, any non-compliant wood packaging materials (excluding ship borne dunnage) entering Canada will be ordered removed from Canada. Additional enforcement measures may be applied to importers or those person or organization having custody of non-compliant wood packaging.

All costs incurred in the disposition of non-compliant wood packaging are the responsibility of the person or organization having custody of the non-compliant wood packaging materials at the time of entry to Canada (including port or berthing facilities receiving untreated ship borne dunnage).’

To summarize, if you don’t comply, kiss your shipment goodbye.

Following these guidelines will ensure worry free international shipment of your goods. For more information regarding ISPM 15 for pallets and all other wood packaging materials, visit for country specific information. Also, do your homework – make sure that the pallets you buy are from a reputable source.

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