Establishing A Process Acidified Foods

Processes for acidified foods are based on a relationship between the pH of the product and temperature. Such processes are to be established by a qualified person having expert knowledge in acidification and processing of acidified foods.

Acidification Procedures. Five methods are used in the industry to acidify a low-acid product (21 CFR 114.80):

1. Blanching of the food ingredients in acidified aqueous solutions. An effective way to acidify large particles, this method will require control of the time and temperature of the blanch, as well as the type and concentration of the acid.

2. Immersion of blanched food in acid solution. This two-step acidification process requires blanching the low-acid product in a normal steam or water blancher, followed by dipping the blanched product into an acid solution. The product is removed from the acid solution prior to filling into the containers. The blanch procedure, concentration of the acid solution, and length of time the product is in the acid solution need to be controlled to ensure proper acidification.

3. Direct batch acidification. This method is used for liquid products or other products mixed in batch kettles. Acid is added to the batch in predetermined levels that will achieve the desired lowering of pH. The pH level is confirmed prior to releasing the batch for filling.

4. Direct addition of predetermined amount of acid in individual containers. Liquid acid solutions or acid pellets are added to each container of product. Diligent control is necessary to ensure that each individual container receives the proper addition of acid. Control is also necessary to ensure that the proper solid-to-liquid ratio is obtained to achieve adequate acidification of the low-acid components.

5. Addition of acid foods to low-acid foods. Proper attention to formulation is necessary for this final method of acidification that relies on the acid from the acid food to acidify the low-acid component. The proportion of acid and low-acid components will be critical to ensure a proper final equilibrium pH.

These five methods of acidification are all acceptable; each requires a certain degree of control for proper acidification. Some products may require more than one method to guarantee consistent acidification.

Pasteurization Process. Pasteurization processes for acidified foods are designed to destroy any vegetative pathogens and spoilage organisms that could grow in the reduced pH environment. The processes are established to either deliver a final product temperature at the end of heating or a specific F value for the microorganism of concern. The heating rate of the product needs to be determined for processes established to deliver a specific F value. Product heating rates for acidified foods are determined with heat penetration studies. These studies will be discussed in detail in the following section on low-acid foods. Processes that rely on a final product temperature may be monitored with maximum reading thermometers or by actual temperature measurements from containers periodically sampled at the end of the final heating section.

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