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Fermented Foods Safety Guidance

Best practices for a variety of fermented foods will assist food safety staff (health inspectors) with evaluating the safety of fermented foods and fermentation processes encountered during inspections.

Owners and operators of food processing facilities may also find this guidance helpful as it reviews critical control points and measures recommended to produce safe fermented foods.

The best available evidence guided this work at the time of publication.

Each fermented food review includes:

  • background on the food
  • a description of the food preparation
  • a food flow chart
  • a review of the potential issues with the food preparation
  • food safety control points

A national working group of health inspectors, food safety specialists, and industry fermentation experts worked together to create guidance on fermented foods. This guidance does not replace or supersede federal and provincial guidance or regulatory requirements for fermented foods. Health inspectors, food safety staff, owner and operators of food processing facilities should follow federal and provincial food safety requirements.

About fermented foods

Introduction to Fermented Foods (PDF) includes how fermented foods are described by substrate, fermenting agent or end-product. Includes an overview of the most common types of starter cultures, lactic acid bacteria, moulds, yeasts, alkaline, combined and SCOBY based fermentations.

Starter culture and fermented food standards fermentation culture is described in depth highlighting spontaneous or wild ferments, commercial starters, back-slopping and evaluation of starter safety. Microbiological standards for fermented foods and safety and quality tests are outlined. This section also reviews chemical hazards of alcohol and biogenic amines in fermented foods.

Fermented foods guidance

  • Fermented vegetables: lactic acid bacterial or lacto-based crock ferments of vegetables, e.g. cucumbers or pickles, are reviewed then contrasted with vinegar-based preservation
  • Sauerkraut (PDF)is a traditional European wild lactic acid fermentation of cabbage and salt
  • Kimchi (PDF) is a traditional Korean wild lactic acid fermentation of cabbage and salt, including red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, onion and other ingredients
  • Dosa and idli are traditional South and West Indian dishes made of fermented cereals, rice and black gram that are ground, then fermented with salt, wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria. The dough is fried (dosa) or steamed (idli)
  • Fesikh (PDF) is a traditional Egyptian fish dish that is dried before salting and wild lactic acid bacteria fermentation
  • Yogurt (PDF) is made of pasteurized milk that is cultured with commercial lactic acid bacteria and added flavour ingredients
  • Plant-based cheese (PDF) is a fermentation of ground nuts (e.g. cashews) or nut liquids (e.g. coconut milk) made with commercial lactic acid bacteria and added flavour ingredients
  • Natto (PDF) is a traditional Japanese fermentation of boiled soybeans with commercial Bacillus subtilis culture that makes the soybeans sticky and savoury
  • Koji fermented foods (PDF) include traditional Asian foods such as miso, soy sauce and a sweet beverage called amazake made with rice and cereals, such as wheat or barley. Koji foods are fermented with commercial Aspergillus oryzae moulds creating enzymes that break down carbohydrates into sweet (amazake) and savoury (miso, soy sauce) flavours
  • Tempeh (PDF) is a traditional Indonesian soybean cake fermented with commercial Rhizopus moulds
  • Kombucha and Jun (PDF) are fermented beverages of Asian and Russian origin made of black tea and sugar (kombucha) or green tea and honey (jun). Symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeasts (i.e. SCOBYs) are re-used to create these carbonated, vinegar-based flavoured drinks
  • Water and milk kefir are fermented beverages of Russian origin created with milk or water, sugar and tiny grains called kefir containing lactic acid bacteria, acetic-acid bacteria and yeasts, called a combined fermentation. The kefir grains are re-used
  • Fermented sausages or charcuterie meats may be made from beef, pork or poultry and are fermented with commercial lactic acid bacteria, nitrites, salt and other ingredients. Molds often grow on the surface during ripening. These ready-to-eat sausages may be smoked hot (cooked), or cold (uncooked), and then dried. Examples include dry sausages such as pepperoni and semi-dry products such as summer sausage and cervelat salami
  • Pidan century egg (PDF) or 100 year old egg is made of duck, chicken or quail eggs and is an example of an alkaline processed food that is not actually fermented with a microbial culture. Eggs are treated with sodium or potassium hydroxides and aged with minimal bacterial growth occurring

The PowerPoints provided here are intended as teaching aids.

The content below links to other information useful for fermented foods safety.

  • Cultured dairy products
  • Excel table of fermented foods. This table provides a quick overview of fermented foods, category of microbial starter culture, and control points, such as end-point pH or water activity expected for the food. It includes foods not reviewed in the detailed guidance above
  • Food Safety and Sanitation Plans
  • Ready-to-eat meat course (National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health)

SOURCE: Fermented Foods Safety Guidance ( )
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