What type of tests does my product need?

The three primary types of testing that are performed to ensure product safety include pH (a measure of acidity), water activity (a measure of water available to microorganisms) and nutritional analyses (for nutrition label). Food products that are prepared to be shelf stable require pH testing.

If the food product has high sugar content then a water activity test may also be required. These tests are also used to determine if a food product is classified as either an acid, acidified or low-acid food. Products that are classified as acidified and low acid require the processor to have a Better Process Control School certificate and registration of their facility and process with the Food and Drug Administration. This is a requirement of the FDA and must be done before registering the product with SCDA.

All food product testing results are written into a process control letter, which is required documentation to show proof of testing with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. Nutritional analysis can also be performed on your product if you wish to have a nutrition facts panel on your label, however, this is not a requirement unless you are producing over 100,000 units per year or have over 100 employees.

Some baked goods and other food products may require testing (pH and/or water activity) to determine if the product is a potentially hazardous food. Foods that are classified as potentially hazardous foods require refrigeration.

Here is a chart that may be useful in deciding what type of testing your product requires

Type of Product

Type of Analysis

Acid Foods

  • Tomato-based Products
  • Fruit-based Products
  • Fermented Products


Acidified Foods

  • Pickled Vegetables
  • Meat/Poultry Marinades
  • Some Types of Salad Dressings

ph of brine (liquid) and solids

Low Acid Foods

  • Vegetables
  • Soups


Specialty Low Acid Foods

  • Dessert Toppings
  • Cake-in-a-jar


Water activity

Meat/Poultry (Dried or Smoked)

  • Jerky, Smoked Fowl
  • Sausages (Dry, Semi-dry, Fermented, Hot-Smoked, Pickled)


Water Activity


Dairy Products


Microbiological Testing (product specific)

Specialty Preserves

  • Low Sugar Fruit Preserves
  • Vegetable Preserves


Water Activity

Standard Fruit Preserves


Baked Goods


To get more information about product testing please see the Product Testing Decision TreeProduct Testing Form and Product Testing Fact Sheet

If you have any additional questions about food product testing please contact Adair Hoover at cpope@clemson.edu (Food2Market Coordinator).