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Dec 7, 2009 09:48 AM

Food processing for a cause - moved from Los Angeles board

Hello Everyone,

I volunteer for two different organizations: one a community garden, one a gleaning organization that collects unused fruit (mainly citrus, some persimmon and avocado) and distributes it to local food pantries. Both organizations are trying to utilize community fruit to make value-added products like salsa or jam. I am a Food Scientist and work in the food processing industry, but unfortunately I've seen that companies don't want to deal with a few hundred pounds of fruit from someone's yard, as good as the intentions are. Does anyone have any brianstorms that can help me out? I was thinking about using an inspected kitchen to make small batches of these things, but I'm not sure if it would be legal to sell it without all the nutritional data and what not, and I'm concerned about the slight risk of botulism with canning. Any thoughts? Thank you!!

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  1. I don't think you are far off. Depends on what venue you plan to distribute the product whether you need nutrition facts panel or not. And even then, it is not hard for a food scientist to get an estimate of the nutritional composition based on ingredient data from the USDA Nutritent Composition Database values. All you need to know is the weight of product in, and subdivide to each package size, then set a serving size based on something comparable you see in the grocery store. Most farmer's market type sales where we are do not require processed product to have a nutrition facts panel, because of the limited distribution.

    You are on the right line too in terms of food premises. If you are only distributing locally, odds are you only need a city or regional food premises permit and inspection, similar to restaurants. Of course you are going to use a pressure canner for high pH product, but that won't cost more than a two or three hundred dollars for a lifetime investment. Or as a food scientist, you could formulate all your product to be below the critical pH (with a safety margin of course!), and test using some pH paper. Then all you need to do is use a hot water canner.

    Sounds like a good idea to me! Good luck to you!