Food Testing Services

Currently, our food testing services are fully open, however, we will continue to provide updates on this website.

We are still limiting staff exposure to the public due to the pandemic, please see both personal product delivery and shipping options below.

Effective Wednesday, June 30, 2021:

logo for UMaine Extension

  • Per University of Maine guidelines, face coverings continue to be required at all times when indoors on University or non-University property, in University administered facilities, or non-University administered facilities, regardless of vaccination status.
  • UMaine Extension is gradually returning to normal operations. Buildings and offices may have different protocols depending on staffing and, with that, we encourage you to call ahead.

UMaine Extension expects to be fully open and returned to normal by the end of August 2021.

About our Food Testing Services and what is required

We offer a team approach to provide food testing services and specialize in working with small and start-up food businesses. While our primary mission is to support Maine and New Hampshire food businesses, we also work with businesses across the U.S. and are recognized process authorities by the FDA. Our process involves submission of your batch recipe, detailed processing methods, and 1 sample in the final product container. 

Our Team

  • Kathy Dentici, Research Assistant and Laboratory Manager. Kathy conducts the food testing.
  • Dr. Beth Calder and Dr. Jason Bolton, process authorities and primary contacts for questions regarding testing, test results and process reviews. Beth reviews the formulations and processing methods submitted and writes individualized and comprehensive review letters back to clients. The review letters are automatically emailed to the client as soon as they are completed. Our turnaround time is dependent on the volume of products sent in for testing, but is typically 4-6 weeks.

What products can be sent to us for testing?

We provide testing and process reviews on shelf-stable, canned foods, lacto-fermented vegetable products, water-activity controlled dessert sauces, frostings/fillings, high moisture baked goods, and minimally processed dried food products. We do not provide process reviews for alcohol-based products, herbal tinctures or beverages.  Buttercream frostings, baked goods, and fermented foods must be scheduled ahead of time with Beth before being mailed in.

What products are not covered by our testing services?

We do not provide testing or process reviews on perishable (frozen or refrigerated foods) or meat and poultry products. We also do not provide testing for kombucha, fermented beverages or beverage products.  We do not provide testing for cold filled, shelf stable products, except for mayonnaise. We do not provide shelf-life tests or nutritional facts labels.  We can perform testing on lacto-fermented vegetable products that are refrigerated or shelf stable.

Examples of tests required for certain food products:

  • Pickled foods (acidified foods) and most sauces/dressings will require both pH and water activity tests.
  • Jams, jellies, fruit butters and applesauce products will require pH, water activity and Brix tests.
  • Dessert sauces (caramel and chocolate) will require Brix and water activity tests.
  • Fermented foods will require pH and titratable acidity tests.
  • Food samples that do not typically require a review in Maine are baked goods (without dairy-based fillings/frostings); candy/confections; plain, berry-based jams/jellies (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry or raspberry); and dry spice mixes/rubs.  If you have any questions in regards to jam or jelly testing or processing requirements, please contact either Beth or Jason.

If you have any questions in regards to which tests may be required or if we can analyze your food product, please contact Beth or Jason prior to submitting and paying for samples online. Please see our contact information below.

Our current turnaround time may vary due to the pandemic and product volume sent in for testing, but is typically 4-6 weeks. We appreciate your patience. We provide these services on a part-time basis around our research, outreach, and teaching schedules. Our laboratory observes federal holidays and will be closed on those days and weekends. The laboratory is also open during limited times after December 25 for inventory purposes and will resume our normal testing schedule on January 2.

Questions about testing?

If you have any questions about whether you should send in a product for testing, which tests are required for your product, or how to start a food business in Maine, please contact Beth Calder or Jason Bolton. 

Beth Calder, Ph.D.
Director of Food Testing Services
Extension Food Science Specialist
University of Maine
Cooperative Extension & School of Food and Agriculture
5735 Hitchner Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5735
207.581.2791 or email: beth.calder@maine.edu

Jason Bolton, Ph.D.
Extension Food Safety Specialist
University of Maine
Cooperative Extension
5735 Hitchner Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5735
207.581.1366 or email: jason.bolton@maine.edu

What is required for the testing and review process:

  • REQUIRED: The batch recipe ingredients must be converted onto a weight basis (including fluids) and all the same unit (grams, ounces or pounds). The most accurate method is to purchase a scale that is accurate to 0.1 +/- the unit of measure to individually weigh out the ingredients. Please check that ingredients have been entered correctly to ensure no delays in the testing process.
  • The online form will require you to include your full name, company name (if applicable), email, mailing address, and phone number.
  • Your email address is required, as we will send all results electronically via email to the person listed on the account.
  • One product in the final container must be sent to our laboratory. For water bath-processed foods, if you intend to sell your product in several different container sizes, please submit one (1) sample of each container size.
  • Detailed description of how each product is produced, including vegetable preparation (if applicable) and heating temperatures and times.
  • Be sure to place an identifying label on each product.
  • Include a business card or note with name and address when mailing in samples.
  • For ready-to-eat and minimally processed foods, you may need additional microbial testing.
  • Payment: We now require payment with a credit card or electronic check made payable to the “University of Maine.” If you are having issues with your online payment or with login and password issues, please contact Michele Lodgek at 207.581.2721 or michele.lodgek@maine.edu.

We have an online system to submit recipes, processing methods, and pay online.

If you are new to the system:

  • Visit Getting Started for instructions on how to create a new account and fill out the order form.

If you are an existing client:

Please review the information on what is required. When product formulations and processing methods are not submitted or paid correctly, this delays our ability to provide test results back to our clients in a timely manner. Please contact us first if you have any questions. 

Our current testing prices (effective Oct. 1, 2018):

In-state: Out-of-State:
Test: Pricing Test: Pricing
pH $25.00 pH $40.00
Water activity $25.00 Water activity $40.00
Brix $25.00 Brix $40.00
Titratable Acidity $25.00 Titratable Acidity $40.00
Microbial analysis $65.00 Microbial analysis $90.00
Water phase salt $45.00 Water phase salt $55.00
Least sterilizing value $25.00 Least sterilizing value $40.00

Confidentiality note: Submitted recipes are kept strictly confidential. However, test results will be shared with regulatory agencies as part of the product review process.

When mailing products, please carefully pack containers (to prevent breakage during shipping).  Adequate bubble wrap and a sturdy box are ideal packaging materials to ship glass containers.

*Note: It is the client’s responsibility to ensure containers are adequately wrapped and packaged prior to shipping. Our laboratory is not responsible for additional shipping costs if containers are received broken and/or returned by shipping companies due to broken containers. It will be the client’s responsibility to resend samples to our laboratory for testing if samples are received damaged.

Shipped products must be mailed to:

Kathy Dentici
University of Maine Food Testing Services
Rm# 351, 5735 Hitchner Hall, Orono, Maine 04469-5735

Note: If you are shipping fermented foods, they must be mailed with gel packs.

Personal product deliveries:

Product drop-offs for testing must be made by appointment only. Please contact Melissa Libby Babcock at melissa.libby1@maine.edu or 207-581-2788 to schedule a date and time.  Masks will be required in Hitchner Hall (without any exceptions, following UMaine mask policies.) Food sample batch recipes, processing methods and payments must be submitted online prior to delivering product samples.  Please leave your contact information (or business card) with Melissa and ensure your product samples are labeled (the label does not have to be the finished product label).  Melissa is located in Hitchner Hall (Orono campus) at Room 134 on the first floor.  Shipped products must be mailed to Kathy Dentici at the mailing address listed on this website. 

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