Non-acidic products, including most vegetables and fresh meat, can be acidified to produce acidified low-acid foods. These products are commonly called “pickles” or “pickled products”. Because there is a risk of botulism if these foods are not properly acidified and processed, there are very specific regulations that pertain to these foods. Included in this section are a number of resources addressing this category of foods.
A number of acidic foods are not considered to fall into the acidified low-acid food category. To determine if your product is an acidified low-acid food consult the following document:
The pH and/or acidity of a food are generally used to determine processing requirements and applicability of specific regulations. You can find the approximate ranges of pH values of common food products in tables posted online, for example:
- pH Values of Common Foods and Ingredients (Clemson University Extension) (PDF 209 KB)
- pH Values of Various Foods (Appendix 1, scroll down on page) (Oklahoma State University Food Technology Fact Sheet) (PDF 479 KB)
Acidified low-acid foods processed in California must comply with the California Cannery Inspection & Licensing Program (CA Dept. of Public Heath) Associated forms are from CDPH, except where noted below.
What to Do When - A Timeline:
California Cannery License Program Timeline (CAFF, UC Davis, UCANR, WRCEFS)
- Web Version with active hyperlinks (PDF 733 KB)
Procedures and Forms
- Procedure for Obtaining a Cannery License (PDF 151 KB)
- How to Fill out the "Request for pH Control" Form (PDF 366 KB)
- Request for pH Control Form (PDF 56 KB)
- How to Complete the "Request for Official Sterilization Process" Form (PDF 287 KB)
- Request for Official Sterilization Process Form(PDF 304 KB)
FDA (Federal) Regulations
- Acidified & Low-Acid Canned Foods Guidance Documents & Regulatory Information (FDA) This website contains instructions for establishment registration and process filing along with other information useful to manufacturers of these types of products.
Acidification of Garlic added to Oil (FDA Safe Practices for Food Processes) Section 3.5
(Section 3.5 is copied below) From: Evaluation and Definition of Potentially Hazardous Foods, page 59 (IFT/FDA) (PDF 2.8 MB)
Product: Garlic-in-oil. The product is not held hot or cold. The ingredients of the product are chopped fresh garlic and oil. The product is intended to be distributed and stored at ambient temperature for extended shelf life. Outbreaks have been associated with C. botulinum toxin in garlic-in-oil. Microbiological hazards: C. botulinum toxin production.
Step 1. Processing: Oil poured into chopped garlic in a bottle. Although no heat is applied, vegetative pathogens are not associated with this food. Go to Table A.
Table A: pH> 4.6 and high aw (not specified).
Step 2. Decision: Product may be a TCS food. (TCS = Time/Temperature Control for Safety)
Product Assessment: No identified product characteristic that prevents spore-forming pathogen growth. Antimicrobial properties of garlic will prevent the growth of vegetative pathogens.
Decision options: Challenge testing, predictive microbial model, reformulation to lower pH with acetic or phosphoric acid to < 4.6, refrigerate (TCS food), store hot (TCS food), or at ambient temperature for a limited time less than the estimated lag phase for the pathogens of concern, or not marketable.
1Flavored oil will present negligible hazard due to lack of C. botulinum survival or growth in 100% oil.
University Assistance, Information, & Training
- Overview of Acid and Acidified Foods
- Sample Record Forms
The sample records contained in this section were prepared by the Cornell Food Venture Center and funded by the United States Department of Agriculture - National Institute of Food Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) Grant # 2009-51110-20147 and Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. These sample records are for educational purposes. Each company would have to customize these forms to fulfill regulatory compliance. You can find all of the forms below here: https://cals.cornell.edu/cornell-agritech/partners-institutes/cornell-food-venture-center/acid-acidified-foods (Scroll to the bottom of the page). Each form can be downloaded as a Word document.
- Sample Processing Records Form
- Sample Processing Records for Refrigerated/Frozen Foods Form
- Sample Processing Records for Foods Containing Solids Form
- Sample Recall Records Form
- Sample Ingredient Records Form
- Sample Distribution Records Form
- Sample Training Records Form
North Carolina State University
From the North Carolina State University Department of Food Science:
When acidified low acid or low acid canned foods are shipped across state lines the food processor must register with the FDA in addition to the appropriate state agency. This article describes the process for filing a scheduled process with the FDA.
- Online Acidified Foods Manufacturing School
- Acidified Foods: Formulating Dressings, Sauces and Marinades (PDF 37 KB)
- Developing A HACCP Plan for Acidified Foods (PDF 20 KB)
- Herbal Foods (PDF 20 KB)
University of California, Davis
- Better Process Control Schools Our in-person course, AFMS, and others' listings.
- Acidified Foods Manufacturing School (Part online, part in-person) Especially designed for smaller processors.
University of Georgia
- Online Better Process Control Schools (full course and Acidified Foods)