Scheduled Process

For most shelf stable fluid products it is necessary to obtain a Scheduled Process prior to processing.

A scheduled process is your recipe and procedure, which has been review and edited by a recognized process authority. With very few exceptions, if you are making a product that is fluid and shelf stable, you will be required to have a scheduled process.

The FDA regulates the production of food and requires that the scheduled process be registered with the FDA.

The links below will take you to some recognized process authorities:

Food Science New England – – Fred Jewett – fred.fsne@gmail.com

NorthEast Labs 

Cornell University

University of Maine

North Carolina State University

 

 

To obtain a scheduled process, you will submit:

  1. Your recipe. Each ingredient must be measured by weight (pounds, ounces, grams, kilograms). Choose one unit of measure stick with it.
  2. Your method. This is the production steps.

The scheduled process is formal document and must be followed exactly, by you or by your co-packer.

You can expect to pay between $95 and $175 per process at the time of this post (February 2016).

It is to your advantage to streamline the process and allow for as many variables as possible.  For example, if you make 5 fl oz bottles, but you think maybe in the future, you want to make half gallons, ask the process authority to write it for “4 fl oz up to 128 fl oz”

You may also ask them to write statements such as “Water maybe added to thin the product to the correct consistency” or “Vinegar maybe added to adjust pH”

If it is not on the document, you are prohibited from making adjustments without permission.

It is also important for you to know how many gallons of product (this is a unit of volume) or unit of product produced by this quantity.

The process authority will make adjustments to your recipe and procedure to insure that it can be safely held at room temperature. This may include the addition of acid, salt, sugar or other additives to create the correct pH or water activity.

Do not be afraid to question the additions if you think that it will change the flavor or texture of the product. There may be other options.

Once you have your scheduled process, you are ready to go into production and can safely make a shelf stable product.

Shelf Stability and Acid

In small food manufacturing pH is a critical factor enabling your product to be shelf stable.

The pH scale is a 14 point reference from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline.

It is measured with a pH meter. There are many of types of pH meters, but generally, a digital unit with a separate probe is more accurate. They can range from $250 and up.  A good meter is worth the investment. The meter must be calabrated frequently to give accurate measurements and requires buffering liquid for this procedure. All of which can be purchased at the same tile from a reputable company such as Cole Parmer.

pH is important for food items as pathogenic bacteria cannot grow in a low pH environment.

Each bacteria has a differnet threshold. The most dangerous pathogen as far as shelf stability is concerned is clostridium botulinum (botulism) which cannot grow below a pH of 4.5.

As a reference, vinegar and lemon juice have an approximate pH of 2. Tomatoes have an approximate pH of 4 and most vegetables have a pH between 6 and 7, which is close to neutral. As a contrast, soapy water has a pH of approximately 12, which is alkaline.

To be safely packed, pH must be used in conjunction with temperature to prevent the possibility of mold growth.

When used together and evaluated by a recognized process authority, your product my be held at ambiaent temperatures and will be safe for an extended time for people to eat. This can be done with out the addition of dangerous chemicals. The process authority will write a scheduled process for you, which will outline the manufacturing requirements.

Ingredients with a low pH are sour and any additions of acid – lactic, malic, citric, vinegar, lemon juice or any other acids – will make your product more  tart.

This type of control is essential to insure that your product is safely manufactured and will be safe to eat.