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Showing posts from March, 2021

Q: How do I submit food products for lab testing?

  A: Follow these Best practices for submitting food products for lab testing: Contact the lab to ask about their submission protocols. Ask how much product to submit? How to ship or drop off samples? Price and turnaround time? In addition, follow these best practices: Testing 3-4 samples from separate batches demonstrates the product is consistent and all batches are staying within the allowed pH and/or water activity parameters. However, you may submit one sample from one batch. If it fails, readjust your recipe or process and send in another sample from that batch.   After initial testing, if you change anything in your recipe or process, test again. Provide a sample with all components of your product, ie. brine (liquid) and solids of pickled products, cupcake with frosting, pie with crust.   To avoid contamination from batch to batch or product to product, use clean knives, spatula, etc. to collect each sample. Use containers that are clean, dry and leak-proof, sealable and si

Q: What products need lab testing?

The primary reason to test your food product at a lab is to ensure that the product does not encourage the growth of bacteria, which can cause foodborne illness. Test results also gives you piece of mind, knowing that you are producing and selling a legal non-potentially cottage food product. A: Acidity and water activity provide information about the potential for bacteria to grow in food. The more acidic the food (low pH) and the less water available in the food (low water activity), the less likely the food will promote bacterial growth. A shelf-stable product that does not require refrigeration must have a water activity level (aw) of ≤ 0.85 or an acidity level (pH) of ≤ 4.6 per state food regulations.  Food products that do not typically need lab testing are baked goods (without dairy-based fillings/frostings); candy/confections; plain, berry-based jams/jellies (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry or raspberry); and dry spice mixes/rubs.  To determine if and what test(s) is appropr

Q: Do you have to test the pH of fermented products?

A: Yes. To produce a safe product, the pH fermentation brine must steadily drop to a safe pH of 4.6 or below to prevent C. botulinum growth. After reaching a safe pH, secondary spoilage may occur, which breaks down lactic acid resulting in a rising pH above 4.6, thus putting the product at risk for C. botulinum. Monitoring the pH from beginning to end of the vegetable fermentation process is critical to validate a safe product. Monitor product pH during fermentation: Daily, monitor and take pH readings with a calibrated pH meter from 2-3 samples from different areas of the brine and from each fermentation container.  Kimchi ferments quicker than pickles or sauerkraut so test pH every 12 h for 2 days until pH < 4.6 at room temperature (68-72 degrees) or every day for 4 days until pH < 4.6 for fermentation under refrigeration (< 40°F). Record date, time and pH readings to document continued decline in pH to < 4.6. Vegetable ferments usually reach a pH < 4.6 within a week.