Spices & Seasonings/BBQ Sauce
QUESTION: I am in the process of bottling my BBQ Sauce and choosing the proper bottle. I have notice, in using a PVC or PET bottle an extreme difference in the accepted fill temperature for either bottle. The Extension service which did the tests on my sauce recommend a fill temp of 185 degrees and 4.5 acidity. How is it that some sauce producers are using the PVC bottle (max allowable temp is 138 deg)if the fill temp should be min 185 deg for BBQ sauces? I realize there is a broad difference in fill acidity as well. Thanks for the help and please email if clarity is needed.
Thanks for the question. Unfortunately, I think this may be outside the scope of my expertise; I don't have any experience packaging and marketing my own products, so I'm not familiar with the regulations and such (they can vary from State to State as well). I can, however, give you some info on food safety, that's a good place to start:
Bacteria need all of the following things in the proper amounts in order to *grow*: Food, Acidity, Time, Temperature, Oxygen, Moisture. You can control the oxygen content significantly by properly sealing your product, but the only other condition you are really going to be able to affect would be the acidity. Most harmful bacteria hate acidic environments, so highly acidic foods (4.5 is pretty acidic) are highly resistant to spoilage. This doesn't mean it won't happen, but the lower the pH, generally, the longer shelf life you are going to have. Also, there are some bacteria love high acidity, so if there are any off smells or colors, or you have any doubts, best to throw it out. One thing you don't want to be doing is giving food poisoning to dozens of consumers that buy your products. That would be enough to put you under for sure.
The reason that you want a specific temperature for packaging is to eliminate all of the bacteria that are currently present, so there are none inside after the sealing process. If you do this, the product will be safer, and it will have a considerably longer shelf life. This is a process called pasteurization, and I'm sure you've heard of it before (usually in milk and juices, but it's the same concept).
The important thing with heat sealing/pasteurization is that you bring the temperature hot enough long enough to eliminate *all* harmful bacteria, otherwise any that remain will reproduce and cause problems. There are several different time/temperature ranges commonly used in this process:
UHT (ultra high temperature) takes place around 275 degrees for just a second.
High Temperature pasteurization takes place between 160-165 degrees for 15 seconds.
There are advantages and disadvantages to slow and fast pasteurization, but a moot point for your BBQ sauce I think.
Unfortunately, I don't really have any knowledge of different types of plastic, their deformation points, or other such things. If you are involved with a company that packages products for consumers, though, I would recommend that they be your first resource. I would love to help in any way I can, but I think they probably have more and more thorough knowledge in this specific field than I do. -I have plumbed my home before, so I've worked with PVC, and I know there are different types. Perhaps some companies use a 'high-heat' PVC for their products?
You could also check with your county health department, they will be able to tell you if you are hitting the proper temps in order to sell your sauce legally.
I hope this helps. If you'd like more info on the plastic, maybe you could consult a chemist on allexperts? In any case, I hope this info is useful for you.
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Is it possible for you to forward my original question on to another "expert" for some additional information?
I don't believe that I have that capability, but you can check here:
I would look for someone specializing in polymers or plastics, which would probably be under chemistry or applied sciences or some sort.