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Water Activity in Hotsauce

PH Water Activity Shelf Life Stability

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#1 pungentSapling

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 11:55 AM

Hi All, 

We have been working hard to bring a hot sauce product to market in Canada.  We have rented a commercial kitchen, had and passed health inspection - and also had to submit a sample of the sauce for testing.   The tests were done to ensure stability of sauce for non refrigerated storage. The results of the test are disheartening.   The PH of the sauce was fine (somewhere just below 3.8)  but the problem is the Water Activity level is high.  Has anyone encountered this issue before.  If the ph is low enough - is water activity really a problem?  Any tips on how to reduce water activity in a hot sauce?

 

Thanks, 

Colin

 



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#2 SavinaRed

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 11:59 AM

What do you mean by " water activity " ?

 

Do you have a picture you can show us ?



#3 pungentSapling

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 12:07 PM

https://en.wikipedia...ity#Food_safety

 

Water activity or aw is the partial vapor pressure of water in a substance divided by the standard state partial vapor pressure of water. In the field of food science, the standard state is most often defined as the partial vapor pressure of pure water at the same temperature. Using this particular definition, pure distilled water has a water activity of exactly one. As temperature increases, aw typically increases, except in some products with crystalline salt or sugar.

Higher aw substances tend to support more microorganismsBacteria usually require at least 0.91, and fungi at least 0.7.[1] See also fermentation.

Water migrates from areas of high aw to areas of low aw. For example, if honey (aw ≈ 0.6) is exposed to humid air (aw ≈ 0.7), the honey absorbs water from the air. If salami (aw ≈ 0.87) is exposed to dry air (aw ≈ 0.5), the salami dries out, which could preserve it or spoil it.



#4 Jubnat

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 12:11 PM

Sugar and salt

#5 The Hot Pepper

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 12:13 PM

With acified foods you should be exempt from water activity because your pH is within the safe level. But you are in Canada so not sure. Check into it.

:cheers:


#6 The Hot Pepper

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 02:19 PM

Sorry this would be correct for our FDA.

"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."

So is it the same in Canada and is your issue the aw is lower?

You may want to check with member Pepper North who processes in Canada.

:cheers:


#7 Jubnat

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 02:43 PM

Are you submitting a test for a product that you want to be shelf stable after opening?  If so, that may be your problem.  Sometimes, people don't understand that hot sauces are meant to be shelf stable until opened, then they must be refrigerated.  At least, that's what the FDA wants you to do.

 

With what TheHotPepper quoted, you would be fine(in the US at least).  Because, you indeed have an acidified food with a proper ph, your water activity is high, but that's fine, because the main issue is ph.  As it says, foods with water activity greater than 0.85.  Most likely, because foods with a lower water activity would not necessarily need that low of a ph.

 

The thing is, part of the regulations on acidified foods are how they are processed.  I think for hot sauces you would hot fill(something like 180F?), then cap, and invert to sterilize the cap.

 

I don't know if that helps.  If you can, give us some more details on your sauce and process.

 



#8 salsalady

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 06:49 PM

A long time ago, I was looking at making/selling fresh pasta.  I sent a couple samples off for testing and water activity was a critical item the process authority looked at when considering whether to allow the fresh pasta to market.  The first batch I sent for testing was too moist for a fresh pasta.  That's about all I remember about water activity~ 

 

I've NEVER had any items of concern with water activity when getting hot sauces licensed.  It's all about the ingredients, the packing process and the pH.  Sauces have liquids and water in them all the time.  If they didn't have water content, they wouldn't come out of the bottle. 

 

Sounds like something that needs to be discussed with and explained by your licensing persons. 

 

Good Luck.  I think it's probably a technicality, another hoop to jump through.

 

Keep at it!

SL


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#9 Mystere

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 07:33 PM

I don't refrigerate my hot sauce. I use it often enough and it's been on the back of the stove for months. It gets a thin watery layer but a couple of shakes take care of that.

#10 pungentSapling

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Posted 12 August 2017 - 02:53 PM

Currently I am working on my recipe to see if I can lower the Water Activity to .85 or below.   I have drastically reduced the water content (raised the vinegar content) and have added sugar.  I have a very tasty experimental batch ready for testing..   wish me luck...

 

What our health inspector is telling us - is that we need a PH below 4.6 and water activity below .85....      My last sample was Ph 3.7 and Water Activity .99 (seems a little unbelievable since pure water has activity of 1.0 - and the sauce was very very hot - definitely not water).

 

As far as bottling we are doing a hot fill as per post above...

 

 i appreciate everyone's comments   Thanks!

 







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