FDA defines product Initial Temperature as….
“Initial temperature means the average temperature of the contents of the coldest container to be processed at the time the thermal processing cycle begins, as determined after thorough stirring or shaking of the filled and sealed container.”
The initial product temperature is a critical factor to the process time and must be monitored and recorded as part of the thermal process records.
To record the Product Initial Temperature for products processed in retortable containers, the following procedures are recommended:
- When the retort is being loaded, the "IT Container" must be set aside. For Hot Filled product, this would be first container sealed for the first basket of the retort cycle. For product that is filled cold, this would be the last container sealed or the last container in the retort. This IT container will be used to determine the initial temperature of the product before starting the retort cycle.
- After the retort is loaded and before the start of the retort process, the temperature of the first sealed container must be measured.
- The container should be “shaken” to uniformly distribute the temperature inside the container.
- A calibrated thermometer is used to pierce the sealed container and measure the product temperature at the center of the container. If solids are part of the product, the temperature of the solid should be taken.
- The temperature reading must be properly recorded and monitored as a critical factor to the process. Temperature readings less than allowed in the scheduled process should be handed as a Process Deviations.
- The process time used in production is based on the Minimum Product Initial Temperature. The operator must use this Product Initial Temperature to establish the process time for that specific batch.
NOTE: Some retort computer control systems enable the entry of the product Initial Temperature into the system prior to the start of the process. These computer control systems will then use the Product Initial Temperature to calculate the actual process time to be delivered to that specific batch.
- After measuring the initial temperature, the container and its contents must be discarded.
CAUTION: Care must be taken not to mix the un-processed container being held for the initial temperature reading with post-processed containers.