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kalypso

Food safety when preparing & cooking vacuum seealed food

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We've had a counter top commercial vac sealer for at least the last 5-6 years. We've used it for an assortment of tasks that range from sealing batters and sauces for transport or freezing to sealing deli meats after slicing. About the only thing we haven't used it for is sous-vide :laugh:

During the last 2 inspections by the local health department, we've been told we need to develop, and get approved by the state, a HCCAP progam for the vacuum sealer. Both health inspectors have said that the State of California is now requiring this for the sealers.

Has anyone had to do this yet?

Does anyone have a HCCAP plan for a vacuum sealer they'd be willing to share that could be used as a template?

This is not a critical piece of kitchen equipment for us, but I'd hate to have to take it out of service because it does come in handy.

TIA

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What were the issues the health department had with the sealer? I'm in Missouri and they don't have an issue with the sealer, but they do with my Immersion Circulator. I had to come up with a HACCP plan for anything sous vide which makes sense. Just curious what the health issues are with vac packing product. Mine is absolutely vital to my operation, like to stay ahead of the ball when it comes to health department

Josh

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The inspector was not clear on what the exact problem was with it. She just asked if we had a HACCP plan for it and when we said no she gave us a "cease and desist" citation and said it had to be taken out of service until we did. She said something about a state law requiring it but could not be more specific about what the law was or when it was enacted.

I've actually got a call into her supervisor to review a couple of the items on which she dinged us because I think they were pretty iffy citations. Our vacuum sealer is one of the issues. It may very well be there is a State law - California has regulations for regulations - but an inspector with the authority to take a unit out of operation also needs to be able to discuss the reasons why and provide the operator with some background (i.e. the state law) or resources.

I did find a HACCP template on line that I'm going to check out in greater deatil on Monday and see if we can use it. I hear you, there have been times in our operation where the vacuum sealer was a real asset in production.


Edited by kalypso (log)

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Hmmm, i've never had an inspector not give a reason for something. I can see problems with maybe items that are warm being vac packed, like plastic wrapping a container with warm contents. Maybe cross contamination with raw vs. ready to eat. I pack anything from vegetables to raw chicken in my machine. On my HACCP sheet for the chicken (Sous Vide) I have a check box that says "Vac Pack Machine has been Cleaned and Sanitized".

Interested in seeing what you come up with

Josh

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I agree. In the past the inspectors have always given us a reason, and if it's state law a sheet explaining the law. I'm pretty sure this is a new inspector and is interpretting everything very literally. She also told us we needed a hood over our display cooking station. I don't think so. When we were running rotisserie chicken alot we used our vacuum sealer for the chickens and the health department didn't say boo. So we'll see.

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I'm in the UK where things may be different but we included a section on vacuum packing in our generaal HACCP.

I can't attach an xls here so ping me an email address if you want a copy

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The biggest issue with vacuum packing is the lack of oxygen in the package, an environment the bacterium Clostridium botulinum loves.

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About a couple days ago, I set my circulated waterbath to 60C and dropped in two racks of pork side ribs. While it sank initially, much to my dismay, I found the middle portion of it floating recently. The ribs were already sold in a vacuum packed pouch so I didn't bother repackaging them. I'm concerned that the portion floating could be a result of bacterial fermentation (so the ribs were already bad when I bought them). However, if it simply floated as a result of steam buildup, is it safe to consume? My setup is an 18qt roaster with a covered lid, circulated by an aquarium pump and managed through a Dorkfood DSV. Since it is covered, I took a thermometer and tested the temperature of the air below the lid and it read up to 57C, ensuring safe pasteurization temperatures. However, since the bag inflated, is it safe to assume that the middle portion received adequate heat transfer to achieve pasteurization?

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If you put it in 60C water, didn't overpack the bath and have circulation it's probably just one of the rack that wasn't well packed. You should have no problem with food safety. If it's bacterial fermentation that cause that problem you will know as soon as you open the bag. It will CLEARLY smell like garbage.

Good luck

Louis-Frederic

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I think I know the answer to this... but...

 

Was cooking short-ribs at 135 since Monday evening.  Was targeting 48 hours.

 

I woke up this morning to see that the immersion circulator was off and that the temperature was 107.  I could tell by the fact that the microwave clock was not on that there was a brown-out.  I turned the thing back on and it dropped to 104 real fast and then climbed back up.

 

I used Newton's Law of Cooling to figure out that it was off for about 3.5 hours, and in the danger zone for about 3 of those hours.

 

My hope is that since it was at 135 for 36 hours before the brown out, that I'm good to go, but I'm pretty sure reality is that I need to change tonight's dinner plans.  Please tell me I'm wrong.

 

 

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When in doubt, throw it out. Your toilet will thank you.

  • Like 1

"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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Yeah Nancy, I think that's the right call.  Daaaaaaaamn :( 

 

From now on I'm connecting this thing to a UPS.

 

Also, following the links here contains nothing to green-light eating it: 

 

 

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It has already been cooked at 135*F for at least 30 hours before the temp drop so the meat is in fact cooked and in a more than clean but probably not sterile state. You are just rendering the collagen to make it more tender after 2 hours of cooking. I would eat it.


"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

Arabella Weir as Minty Marchmont - Posh Nosh

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If the beef was in a sealed bag and already pasteurized I would eat it.  (I spent most of an hour in the middle of last night on the toilet but that was from an intractable nose bleed, not from food poisoning.)

 

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I agree with Soupcon and Joe. The only danger here is anaerobic spores blossoming to life as active bacteria (c. perfringes, c. botulinum). That becomes a possibility below 130°C. Could they do it in enough numbers to create dangerous levels of toxins?

 

I can't find any data on how long it takes spores to germinate into active bacteria at various temperatures, and what their growth curves are. But I doubt that much is likely to happen in a sous vide bag that's been pasteurized, and that dips to 104F over 3.5 hours. That's longer than the USDA maximum allowable time for meat in the "danger zone," although this is an estimation based on active bacteria in unpasteurized food. It's not about anaerobic spores and toxicity.

 

I would eat it! If I were a restaurant chef, I'd be inclined to toss it. Or at least I'd do more research.


Notes from the underbelly

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