Cook chill (sous vide) stored at 34F (30 days) transferred to 41F (7 days). Note this option was inadvertently left out of the 2013-2017 food codes. A 2018 Issue was submitted, approved, and the FDA will make these changes to the 2017 (update) Food Code.


[no endorsement implied]

Here is a manual tipper tie clipper for cook chill bagging.  It mounts to the wall. It is abt $1,000.  Contact the manufacturer for details and current pricing.  The alternatives to this clipper is a heat sealing machine.

Dry aging beef (and other meats) is said to enhance flavor and tenderness.  It is often used by upscale purveyors to distinguish their products from others.  Dry aging meat is essentially aging meat without protection is a refrigerator.  Cuts are stored separate from each other to permit air flow to dry them in 1-6 weeks.  Natural enzymatic reactions result in a change of flavor and an increase in tenderness.  Another major change is the loss of moisture resulting in a more concentrated flavor, but with a corresponding yield loss.  Several vendors are selling “dry age” bags.  The intention is to seal the surface of meat while permitting moisture loss (dry aging).  In experiments with the bags the moisture loss is lowered (higher yield) while still permitting the “dry aging” process leading to flavor and tenderness attributes.  The bags will also prevent yeast and mold buildup on the surface of dry aging meats.

cc 2008 Filipe Fortes
cc 2008 Filipe Fortes

Dry aging charcuterie (salami, pepperoni, procuitto) is also possible in dry age bags.  The main benefits would be allowing moisture loss and minimizing yeast or mold surface growth.  However, caution must be used since the traditional process for these meats may not be the same when bagged versus left open.

Regulatory concerns: The main concern regulators have for using these bags under the US FDA model food code is whether the bag results in a reduced oxygen packaging (ROP) process.  The bag is moisture permeable and may or may not be oxygen permeable.  Although the bags are quite thin, an oxygen transfer rate CoA (Certificate of analysis) is needed from the bag manufacturer demonstrating an OTR over 10,000 cc/m3/24h to exclude this process from HACCP (under the food code).  If the OTR is below 10,000 or unknown then a simple HACCP plan is required.  In this case storing the meat in the bag at ≤ 41°F for ≤ 30 days total (packaging to service) or ≤ 34°F for ≤ 60 days total (packaging to service) would be acceptable.  The 30 day limit is considered two barrier packaging (refrigeration and competitive bacteria) and a “safe harbor” process in 3-502.12 of the Food Code.  The 60 day shelf life would require a regulatory variance and is justified by limiting the maximum refrigeration temperature to 34°F using a 24/7 temperature datalogger.

Resources: check out a beef research dry aging white paper here.  No endorsements intended but here are some vendor websites: http://www.drybagsteak.com/; https://www.dryagepro.com/;

There are several solutions that work for refrigeration temperature monitoring. Here are two options that come from Thermoworks, a company in Utah.

The first product is a temperature datalogger that requires a docking station to upload measurements.  This product has been tested by the author and it works as described by the manufacturer.  First – the two probe version is recommended.  That way the operator can measure ambient (refrigeration air) temperature with one probe AND the second can be placed between product bags for product temperature.  Note that the food temperature is the critical measurement!  This solution is ~$150 for the datalogger and ~$70 for the cradle.  This datalogger has an alarm light that can be set at the critical limit or a desired temperature.  It is recommended to set this system up to take a measurement every 1-5 minutes.  For ROP in foodservice a manual inspection is required twice daily, including checking a separate thermometer placed in the refrigerator.  The operator must check to ensure the alarm light is not triggered.  After two weeks the operator downloads the data to their computer for storage.  Keep those records for 6 months then discard.

thermadata_logger_td2f_c_a  293-804_ThermaData_Cradle

The second option is identical to the above system, except that it is wifi enabled.  The author has not tested this system yet for ROP refrigeration use.  The same recommendation for the two probe version is made here.  Note that this system does not have a display.  The manufacturer states that these loggers (~$200) have a range of 300 feet (line of sight) and transmit to a USB wireless base station that is easily setup on a PC (~$250).   They also mention that alarm conditions are monitored and text messages can be sent when alarm conditions have been breached.  Since this unit has not been tested by the author, there is a question of how well the signal will transmit from inside a refrigerator.  For the twice daily verification required in the Food Code the operator still needs a separate thermometer.

thermadata_logger_wtb2f_z_a rf_thermadata_base_station_squared_a

Calibration: as with all temperature measurement devises calibration is required.  It is recommended bi-weekly that probes are placed into a properly prepared ice bath that has been verified to be at 32F.  For the USB datalogger this should be done each time the unit is downloaded to the computer.  For the wifi unit, simply test each probe using the ice bath method biweekly.

Many operators struggle to find the right solution for labeling ROP bags under the Food Code and their HACCP program.  Here a few reviews of products that have worked in our ROP lab to get you started.  (No endorsements implied, just tested).

zd500First there are two types of printing technologies for labels: direct thermal and thermal transfer. Direct thermal is the simplest.  There is no ribbon and the image is heat etched on the label.  Direct thermal media is more sensitive to light, heat and abrasion, which reduces the life of the printed material.  Thermal transfer printing uses a heated ribbon to produce durable, long-lasting images on a wide variety of materials.  The direct thermal should work well for ROP.  Labels are generally not needed for more than 30 days.

The printer that’s been tested is a Zebra brand.  Others may be equally suited.  They simply were not tested.  The Zebra model ZD 500 has several features that make it suitable for ROP at retail and food service.  Read the technical specifications here. The cost is approximately 575 dollars.  It does have both direct thermal and ribbon thermal.  This model would work best to integrate with many electronic HACCP systems in current use.  Cheaper models could suffice, but will have less functionality.

Labels require the ability to withstand cooking temperatures followed by cooling and refrigeration (or freezing) temperatures.  They must also withstand water submersion.  This latter requirement requires a polypro (plastic) versus paper label.  The Zebra label Polypro 4000 D has worked well in the test lab.  It has an all temperature adhesive that sticks well during cooking, cooling, and refrigeration.  We’ve not tested the labels under rough handling such as in tumble or jet chillers.  Unfortunately there are only a few sizes available.  The good news is that purchased in bulk each label might be less than 1-3 cents.  Fortunately, because labels are consumables, many vendors will send you samples to work with.  That way you can ensure they work before you buy them.

November 2014