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Regulations, Policies, and Procedures

Canning Fresh Foods for Sale or Service

Joint publication of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Department of Health, and University of Minnesota Extension


Does your menu include fresh food items canned in your facility or do you sell these items in your business? Are you planning to expand your menu or business to include fresh food items canned in your facility?

If so, there are a number of food safety and regulatory requirements to consider. Many of these requirements are the same whether the fresh foods come from your regular commercial sources, or from new sources of locally produced food. If you would like to sell your salsas, jams, or pickles as retail items as well as serving them, other regulations may apply.

This fact sheet provides a brief discussion of these food safety and regulatory issues, and links to websites for more information.

Regulation and Licensure

Before changing your menu or expanding your business by using new foods or methods, you should always check with the state or local regulatory authority that licenses and inspects your facility. They can help you to determine whether there are training, licensing, or permit requirements that you must follow before expanding your business or menu.

Find state and local licensing contacts through the MDH website.

Product, Facility, and Equipment

Based on the product(s) and the recipes you provide for those products, your licensing authority can also help you to determining whether you have the space for storage and production of those food items, and if you need additional commercial equipment for processing or storage.

Approved source

The Minnesota Food Code requires that all food sold or served to the public must be obtained from an approved source. Produce for canning may be purchased from any approved supplier or directly from an unlicensed grower, if the food is grown on the seller's own or rented land. (MN Food Code: Minnesota Rules, Chapter 4626)

Note: Food prepared or stored in a private home or an unlicensed facility may not be served or sold in any food establishment, except as allowed by Minnesota Statutes, Sections 28A.15 and 157.22, clauses (6) and (7) which are specific farmers market exclusions including the pickle bill.

Acid and Acidified Foods

Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid, canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of bacteria. Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6 and include most vegetables. Acidity can be increased, or pH can be lowered (acidifying), by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.

Naturally acid foods contain enough acid to block bacterial growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower and include most fruits.

Although tomatoes are a fruit and are usually considered an acid food, some varieties are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6. Thus, extra precautions must be taken when processing tomato-based foods.

Adding vegetables to naturally acid foods will normally raise the pH above 4.6 and can make the canned product unsafe. For example, adding cilantro, corn, beans, or peppers to tomatoes can raise the pH of the salsa. One solution is to use a tested tomato salsa recipe and to add fresh ingredients for a particular day's service.


Canning Advice

Our canning section has extensive advice and recipes, including these basic reminders:

Standards of Identity

Canned fruit items must meet designated standards of identity. For example, the required soluble solids contents for fruit butter is not less than 43%; for jelly, jams, and preserves, not less than 65%. These are measured using an instrument called a refractometer or through laboratory testing (21CFR 150).

Additional Resources for Canners

Basic Food Safety Requirements

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Reviewed 2012

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