Shelf-stable canned goods

When making a shelf-stable canned good it is important to determine if your product is acidic, acidified, low acid or water activity controlled above 0.85

  • An acid or acidic food is any food with a pH below 4.6
  • An acidified food (AF) is a low-acid food to which acid(s) or acid food(s) are added and which has a finished equilibrium pH of 4.6 or below and a water activity (aw) greater than 0.85.
  • A low-acid canned food (LACF) is any food (other than alcoholic beverages) with a finished equilibrium pH greater than 4.6 and a water activity greater than 0.85, excluding tomatoes and tomato products having a finished equilibrium pH less than 4.7.
  • Water activity measures the amount of water available for bacteria growth. Food with water activity below 0.85 is considered non-hazardous while foods above 0.85 requires additional regulations (see FDA guide).

If you are having trouble determining how to classify your product, contact Cornell's Food Venture Center

Acidic Foods:

  • Call the Vermont Department of Health to ensure you have the proper license (802) 863-7221
  • Ensure that the manufacturing facility is registered with the FDA (currently optional, but must comply by 2020).
  • Contact your Regional Permit Specialist with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure you have the proper wastewater permit
  • Food producers must follow Good Manufacturing Practices, the federal regulation for food manufacturing

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from the FDA is starting to require a Preventive Controls and food safety plan from food businesses.  The compliance dates vary according to the size of your business. Very Small Businesses (less than $1 million in sales) have a compliance date of August 30, 2018.  Very Small Businesses and Qualified Facilities (selling less then $500,000 per year and at least half of the sales from customers within a 275 mile range) can qualify for modified requirements.  There are also exemptions for on-farm processing for particular products (listed on page 21 of this document).

Acidified and Low Acid Foods

Producing acidifed foods includes the regulations above for acidic foods, and:

  • Someone present during manufacturing must have completed a Better Process Control School certification course
  • A process authority to verify the scheduled process
  • File a scheduled process for each product, product style, container size and type and processing method (FDA Form 2451e if you are not currently registered; Form 2451a if you are already registered and need to add another product)
  • Register and file form FDA 2541 to register as a food canning establishment
  • Follow all record-keeping guidelines as laid out in the Code of Federal Regulation Title 21 Part 114

Note: if you are canning meat, even if acidified, it is regulated by the USDA and you must comply with USDA/Vermont Agency of Agriculture regulations.  Check out our guidance on meat regulations.  

Resources

FDA laws for acidified foods in hermetically sealed containers

Form 2451e instructions

Form 2451 instructions

UVM Food Safety Training for Better Process Control School

Examples of record keeping

Guidelines for acidified and low acid

What it takes to process low-acid food

Please note that the Vermont Food Venture Center offers consulting on economic feasibility of your project. Our Steps for Scheduled Process Approval is also a helpful resource for this process.