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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

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The information on this page is current as of Dec 22, 2023.

For the most up-to-date version of CFR Title 21, go to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR).

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Help | More About 21CFR
[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 21, Volume 2]
[CITE: 21CFR113]


Subpart E - Production and Process Controls

Sec. 113.81 Product preparation.

(a) Before using raw materials and ingredients susceptible to microbiological contamination, the processor shall ensure that those materials and ingredients are suitable for use in processing low-acid food. Compliance with this requirement may be accomplished by receiving the raw materials and ingredients under a supplier's guarantee that they are suitable for use, by examining them for their microbiological condition, or by other acceptable means.

(b) Blanching by heat, when required in the preparation of food for canning, should be effected by heating the food to the required temperature, holding it at this temperature for the required time, and then either rapidly cooling the food or passing it to subsequent processing without delay. Thermophilic growth and contamination in blanchers should be minimized by the use of adequate operating temperatures and by cleaning. If the blanched food product is washed before filling, potable water should be used.

(c) The filling of containers, either mechanically or by hand, shall be controlled so as to ensure that the filling requirements specified in the scheduled process are met.

(d) The exhausting of containers for the removal of air shall be controlled so as to meet the conditions for which the process was designed. Compliance with the requirement may be accomplished by heat exhausting, mechanical exhausting, hot brining, or steam injection.

(e) When the maintenance of pH (above 4.6) of a normally low-acid food is a basis for a scheduled process, there shall be careful supervision to ensure that the equilibrium pH of the finished product meets that of the scheduled process. The methodology described in § 114.90 of this chapter should be used.

(f) When the scheduled process sets forth critical factors to prevent the growth of microorganisms not destroyed by the thermal process, the factors shall be carefully controlled to ensure that the limits established in the scheduled process are not exceeded. When normally low-acid foods require sufficient solute to permit safe processing at low temperatures, such as in boiling water, there shall be careful supervision to ensure that the equilibrium water activity (aw) of the finished product meets that of the scheduled process. The scheduled thermal processes for foods having an aw greater than 0.85 and less than the aw that would allow the growth of spores of microorganisms of public health significance shall be sufficient to render the food free of microorganisms capable of reproducing in the food under normal nonrefrigerated conditions of storage and distribution.

Sec. 113.83 Establishing scheduled processes.

Scheduled processes for low-acid foods shall be established by qualified persons having expert knowledge of thermal processing requirements for low-acid foods in hermetically sealed containers and having adequate facilities for making such determinations. The type, range, and combination of variations encountered in commercial production shall be adequately provided for in establishing the scheduled process. Variations include those that occur due to seasonal or growing fluctuations, variety differences, supplier processes, reprocessing, and mixing a batch of processed product with the same unprocessed product before it is processed. Critical factors, e.g., minimum headspace, consistency, maximum fill-in or drained weight, aw, etc., that may affect the scheduled process, shall be specified in the scheduled process. Acceptable scientific methods of establishing heat sterilization processes shall include, when necessary, but shall not be limited to, the use of microbial thermal death time data, process calculations based on product heat penetration data, and inoculated packs. Calculation shall be performed according to procedures recognized by competent processing authorities. If incubation tests are necessary for process confirmation, they shall include containers from test trials and from actual commercial production runs during the period of instituting the process. The incubation tests for confirmation of the scheduled processes should include the containers from the test trials and a number of containers from each of four or more actual commercial production runs. The number of containers from actual commercial production runs should be determined on the basis of recognized scientific methods to be of a size sufficient to ensure the adequacy of the process. Complete records covering all aspects of the establishment of the process and associated incubation tests shall be prepared and shall be permanently retained by the person or organization making the determination.

[76 FR 11922, Mar. 3, 2011]

Sec. 113.87 Operations in the thermal processing room.

(a) Operating processes and retort venting procedures to be used for each product and container size being packed shall either be posted in a conspicuous place near the processing equipment or be made readily available to the retort or processing system operator and any duly authorized employee of the Food and Drug Administration. Scheduled processes must be made readily available to the supervisor and any duly authorized employee of the Food and Drug Administration.

(b) A system for product traffic control in the retort room shall be established to prevent unretorted product from bypassing the retort process. Each retort basket, truck, car, or crate used to hold containers in a retort, or one or more containers therein, shall, if it contains any retorted food product, be plainly and conspicuously marked with a heat-sensitive indicator, or by other effective means that will indicate visually, to thermal processing personnel, those units that have been retorted. A visual check shall be performed to determine whether or not the appropriate change has occurred in the heat-sensitive indicator as a result of retorting for all retort baskets, trucks, cars, or crates, to ensure that each unit of product has been retorted. A record of these checks should be made.

(c) The initial temperature of the contents of the containers to be processed shall be accurately determined and recorded with sufficient frequency to ensure that the temperature of the product is no lower than the minimum initial temperature specified in the scheduled process. For those operations that use water during the filling of the retort or during processing, provision shall be made to ensure that the water will not, before the start of each thermal process, lower the initial temperature of the product below that specified in the scheduled process. The temperature-indicating device used to determine the initial temperature shall be tested for accuracy against a reference device for which the accuracy is traceable to a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), or other national metrology institute, standard reference device, by appropriate standard procedures, with sufficient frequency to ensure that initial temperature measurements are accurate. Records of the accuracy of the temperature-indicating device and of a reference device that is maintained by the processor shall be established and maintained in accordance with § 113.100(c) and (d).

(d) Timing devices used in recording thermal process time information shall be accurate to the extent needed to ensure that the processing time and venting time specified in the scheduled process are achieved. Pocket or wrist watches are not considered satisfactory for timing purposes. Digital clocks may be used if the operating process and the venting schedule have a 1-minute or greater safety factor over the scheduled process.

(e) Clock times on temperature-recording device records shall reasonably correspond to the time of day on the processing records to provide correlation of these records.

(f) The steam supply to the thermal processing system shall be adequate to the extent needed to ensure that sufficient steam pressure is maintained during thermal processing, regardless of other demands of steam by the plant.

(g) If mufflers are used on bleeders or vent systems, evidence that the bleeders or vents are operated in a manner that does not significantly impede the removal of air shall be kept on file. This evidence may be in the form of heat distribution data or other satisfactory evidence such as a letter from the manufacturer, the designer, or a competent processing authority.

[44 FR 16215, Mar. 16, 1979, as amended at 76 FR 11923, Mar. 3, 2011]

Sec. 113.89 Deviations in processing, venting, or control of critical factors.

Whenever any process is less than the scheduled process or when critical factors are out of control for any low-acid food or container system as disclosed from records by processor check or otherwise, the commercial processor of that low-acid food shall either fully reprocess that portion of the production involved, keeping full records of the reprocessing conditions or, alternatively, must set aside that portion of the product involved for further evaluation as to any potential public health significance. Such evaluation shall be made by a competent processing authority and shall be in accordance with procedures recognized by competent processing authorities as being adequate to detect any potential hazard to public health. Unless this evaluation demonstrates that the product had been given a thermal process that rendered it free of microorganisms of potential public health significance, the product set aside shall be either fully reprocessed to render it commercially sterile or destroyed. A record shall be made of the evaluation procedures used and the results. Either upon completion of full reprocessing and the attainment of commercial sterility or after the determination that no significant potential for public health hazard exists, that portion of the product involved may be shipped in normal distribution. Otherwise, the portion of the product involved shall be destroyed. All process deviations involving a failure to satisfy the minimum requirements of the scheduled process, including emergencies arising from a jam or breakdown of a continuous agitating retort necessitating cooling the retort for repairs, shall be recorded and made the subject of a separate file (or a log identifying the appropriate data) detailing those deviations and the actions taken.

Authority: 21 U.S.C. 342, 371, 374; 42 U.S.C. 264.
Source: 44 FR 16215, Mar. 16, 1979, unless otherwise noted.