USDA grant will support state’s small food processors

Contact Barbara Ingham, 608-263-7383, bhingham@wisc.edu

Madison, Wis.–Wisconsin farmers wishing to add value to their crops, and small businesses that want to expand their markets are delving into manufacture and sale of canned pickles, salsas and other family-favorite products. A new project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)will benefit these growing small businesses.

Barbara Ingham, a Cooperative Extension food safety specialist and professor of food science at the UW-Madison, will play a key role in the project recently announced by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Ingham will collaborate with scientists from Wisconsin and North Carolina, state and federal regulators, food processors and others to work on a National Integrated Food Safety Initiative grant to better understand the survival of toxic microorganisms that can survive in acidified foods such as pickles and salsa, and new processing techniques to help ensure the safety of these products.

“This work will bridge a knowledge gap that exists and provide processors with expanded options for processing their products to ensure safety,” says Ingham. “Currently, processors of most products have to heat their product prior to packaging for sale, and also ensure some type of post-packaging heating step.”

For some products, such as a fresh salsa or a dessert sauce, heating can damage quality. “Most processors now resort to keeping the food item refrigerated, but this limits marketing opportunities. Our work will develop parameters that allow processors to fill room-temperature product into jars, a process known in the industry as cold-filling.” The work will also provide information to support the manufacture of foods within a particular pH (or acid) range (pH 4.1 to 4.6).

This information will allow processors to increase sales options. “Our work will expand the scientific basis for critical processing steps in the manufacture of acidified canned foods,” says Ingham.

The group will also establish a nationwide training program and web-based resources for processors of acidified canned foods.

“We are delighted to have Wisconsin at the forefront of this work because it will mean that processors in this state will receive the benefits from the research at the earliest possible moment,” says Ingham.

To learn more about support for small food processors, visit the Food Safety & Health website: http://www.foodsafety.wisc.edu

 

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