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How does one safely use a vacuum sealer?

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To begin with, home-style vacuum sealers are not intended to make a food shelf-stable (not requiring refrigeration). They are primarily used to increase the shelf-life of refrigerated and frozen foods. Spoilage organisms do not grow well in the absence of oxygen and oxidative reactions are minimized in an air-free environment. Therefore, vacuum-sealed products must be refrigerated or frozen. The only exception to this would be dried fruits, vegetables, spices, and nuts. Because of the water activity level of these products, C. botulinum would not grow. One concern though is that C. botulinum has been shown to grow in vacuum-packaged fish products even under refrigeration temperatures. Therefore, if one want to vacuum-package fish, it should be frozen.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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