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The Basics: Fresh Food Processing

Updated: Apr 30

Welcome to Copacker Search Wisdom!

Let's talk about Fresh Food! This includes items that are processed for refrigeration and grocery produce areas. Fresh food processing involves several steps to ensure safety while maintaining the quality and nutritional value of the product:

1. Harvesting and Handling: Proper handling begins at the farm or production site. Fresh food should be harvested at the right time to ensure optimal quality and safety. Careful handling practices, including proper washing and sanitation procedures, are crucial to minimize contamination during harvesting, sorting, and transport.

2. Cleaning and Sanitizing: Upon arrival at the processing facility, fresh produce undergoes thorough cleaning and sanitization. This step removes dirt, debris, and potential pathogens from the surface of the food. Various methods, such as washing with water, scrubbing, and using antimicrobial solutions, may be employed to ensure cleanliness.

3. Processing: Processing fresh food may involve various techniques depending on the type of food and desired end product. This can include cutting, slicing, chopping, blanching, freezing, or packaging. Each step must be conducted under sanitary conditions to prevent contamination.

4. Temperature Control: Maintaining proper temperature control is critical for fresh food safety. Cold storage and refrigeration slow down the growth of bacteria and help preserve the freshness of perishable foods. Hot processing methods such as cooking or pasteurization kill harmful pathogens that may be present in food.

5. Packaging: Packaging plays a vital role in protecting fresh food from contamination during storage and transportation. Packaging materials should be food-grade, durable, and designed to maintain product quality. Vacuum sealing, modified atmosphere packaging, and aseptic packaging are common techniques used to extend shelf life and ensure safety.

6. Quality Assurance and Testing: Quality assurance measures, including regular testing for contaminants such as pathogens, pesticides, and heavy metals, are essential to ensure the safety and quality of fresh food products. This may involve in-house testing as well as third-party laboratory analysis to verify compliance with safety standards.

7. Traceability: Establishing a robust traceability system allows for the tracking and identification of fresh food products throughout the supply chain. This enables quick and targeted responses in the event of a food safety issue or recall.

By implementing these practices, fresh food processors can minimize the risk of contamination and ensure that their products are safe for consumption while maintaining their freshness and nutritional integrity.

Obviously, fresh food is not pasteurized or processed in a way that makes it shelf stable and is very susceptible to biological & physical hazards as well as spoilage. This makes it incredibly important that you thoroughly investigate your chosen copackers before you make a decision on who to partner with. Check out the tips below:

1. Food Safety Certifications: Ensure that the copacker has appropriate food safety certifications, such as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and possibly certifications specific to your industry (e.g., USDA Organic, SQF, BRC). These certifications demonstrate their commitment to producing safe and high-quality food products.

2. Experience and Expertise: Look for a copacker with experience in handling and processing the type of fresh food you are producing. They should have expertise in the specific techniques, equipment, and packaging requirements relevant to your product category.

3. Facility and Equipment: Visit the copacker's facility if possible or inquire about their equipment and production capabilities. Ensure that they have appropriate facilities, equipment, and infrastructure to handle your production volume and meet your quality standards. Check that their equipment is well-maintained and suitable for processing fresh foods.

4. Quality Control Measures: Inquire about the copacker's quality control procedures and protocols. They should have robust quality assurance systems in place to monitor and ensure the consistency, safety, and integrity of your products throughout the production process.

5. Packaging Options: Discuss your packaging requirements with the copacker and ensure they can accommodate your preferred packaging materials, formats, and labeling specifications. They should have the capability to source and handle packaging materials responsibly.

6. Supply Chain Transparency: Transparency in the supply chain is essential for ensuring the traceability and integrity of your products. Choose a copacker who is transparent about their ingredient sourcing practices, suppliers, and any potential allergen risks.

7. Communication and Flexibility: Establish clear lines of communication with the copacker and ensure they are responsive to your inquiries and concerns. Look for a partner who is flexible and willing to accommodate your specific needs, timelines, and production schedules.

8. References and Reputation: Ask for references or seek recommendations from other businesses in your industry. Research the copacker's reputation, track record, and any past performance issues to ensure they have a history of delivering high-quality services.

By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select a fresh food copacker who aligns with your requirements and can help you efficiently and effectively bring your products to market while maintaining quality and safety standards.

As always, Happy hunting!

The CVL Team



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