Thursday, January 17, 2013

What does a bad retort pouch look like?

One of the biggest questions we get is "How do I know if a bag is bad or not, if it is safe to eat?" 

1) The bag is leaking right out of the canner. Most of the time we find this when the vacuum sealer used is not up to standard for sealing retort bags.
2)  Microscopic pin holes in the seal is another issue we find with vacuum sealers that are not rated for retort canning or when an impulse sealer is used.
The larger wide open seals will generally be seen right away. Washing and inspecting each bag before it is stored is good advise.  The microscopic holes in the seal will be seen in a few weeks when the product has rotted.  Usually the smell is obvious the food has turned bad.

We highly recommend acquiring the proper vacuum sealer before attempting retort canning.  More than one sad story has been told of those who have lost hundreds of pounds of food due to the chamber vacuum sealer they were using.   We have done extensive testing with all types of sealers and vacuum chamber units. If in doubt give us a call before you buy a unit, find out what our tests turned up on a wide range of vacuum sealers.  If we have not used it, we can help you tech it, to find out if it will work or not.
Toll Free USA and Canada  1-800-227-3659 

3) The bag will puff up like a balloon. 
The 3 bags pictured are still sealed but have blown up like little balloons or pillows. These bags were sealed with a top rated vacuum sealer designed for retort canning.  These did not go bad due to the vacuum sealer but rather a test of temp and time.
 Normally these bags would be tight or flat against the product.  All three of these bags were a test to see if canning at a lower heat for less time would adversely affect the product. 
Our answer YES.
 Do not alter home canning times and temps when using retort bags.  For best results the bags should be snug in the canner to keep the pressure inside from bursting the seams.  Run the canner for a longer period of time to ensure the entire mass is heated through.

The highest success rate vacuum sealers we have tested come from the MiniPack Torre line and the Sammic line. 
The MiniPack Torre line needs to be upgraded in the heat bar.  But the Sammic line comes retort ready. 
Take a look at both of these manufactures here.

Retort Canning of non acid foods has NO Scientific data from the FDA or USDA. Can at your own risk! We are expressing our experiences, but by no way are these experiences authorized or official data.


jenna tomaszewski said...

It's always good to know what to look for in case you have any questions. What is the typical time your bags are good for if the right sealer was used? As with most things if you don't follow the directions things won't work out the way you had hoped. It's best to do it right the first time. Especially if you went through all that hard work to get the stuff canned in the first place.

PMG Inc. Vacuum Packers said...

Retort bags are rated to have about a 6 year shelf life. But like all canning 1-2 years is safest. The directions for home canning with retort bags has not been established. Thus until the USDA writes the scientific book it is very important not to cut the time or temperature of the foods being canned. We suggest adding more time to ensure the entire mass is hot though out.

We look at it like a roast. A roast in the oven can be well done on the outside and almost raw inside. Same with the retort pouches in the canner the middle bags must get up to temperature and stay there the amount of time needed to kill all bacteria.

Because the bags need to be somewhat snug to keep from exploding the temp and time are vitally important.

As with any canning we are expressing out opinions and not scientific fact. What we state in this blog is our experiences not USDA approved.

Can at your own risk the same as with home canning jars.