Intro To Product Shelf Life Stability And Acidity

Intro To Product Shelf Life Stability And Acidity

For many products, acidity is a very important aspect of development, as it can help ensure shelf life stability. In small batches of food manufacturing,  pH is a critical factor enabling your product to be shelf-stable. pH is important for food items as pathogenic bacteria cannot grow in a low pH environment.

The pH scale is a 14-point reference scale from 0 to 14, where 0 is the most acidic and 14 is the most alkaline. 7 is considered neutral with acidic below that value and alkaline above. Most microbes prefer a neutral or near-neutral environment. It is measured with a pH meter. There are many types of pH meters, but generally, a digital unit with a probe is more accurate. They can cost $250 or more, but a good meter is worth the investment. The meter must be calibrated frequently to give accurate measurements and requires buffering liquid for this procedure. This equipment can be purchased from a reputable company such as Cole Parmer.

Each bacteria has a different acidity threshold that will kill it. 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. In contrast, soapy water has a pH of approximately 12, which is alkaline. 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 tarter.

To be safely packed, your product’s pH generally is used in conjunction with temperature to prevent the possibility of mold or pathogen growth. When used together and evaluated by a recognized process authority, your product may be stored at ambient temperatures and will be safe for an extended time. This can be done without the addition of dangerous chemicals. 

This type of control is essential to ensure that your product is safely manufactured, will have a long shelf life stability, and will be safe for your customers. 

You can continue to read: The importance Of A Scheduled Process?

Author: Mike Schwartz

After spending many years in kitchens in and around New York, and teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education for 12 years, Mike has moved on to his own business. Mike owns BAO Food and Drink, which makes 33 varieties of cultured vegetables, drinks and sauces and the Organic Food Incubator, which offers solutions to small food manufacturers. More importantly Mike is Gabi and Harry's dad and works hard to make sure that they are fed correctly.