Food Testing Services

About our Food Testing Services and an overview of our process

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 for acid/acidified, canned food products.  We also provide testing and process reviews for fermented foods (except kombucha). Our process involves the online submission of your batch recipe, detailed processing methods, and 1 sample sent to us in the final product container.

Our Team

  • Kathy Dentici, Research Assistant and Laboratory Manager. Kathy conducts the food testing.
  • Dr. Beth Calder, process authority and primary contact for questions regarding testing, test results and process reviews. Beth reviews the test results, the submitted recipe formulations and processing steps, 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.
  • Melissa Libby Babcock, Administrative Specialist. Melissa assists with product drop-offs, online account changes, and product payments/reimbursements.

What products can be sent to us for testing?

We provide testing and process reviews on shelf-stable, canned foods (acid and acidified), lacto-fermented vegetable products (except kombucha), water-activity controlled dessert sauces, frostings/fillings, high moisture baked goods, and minimally processed dried food products. 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 most perishable products.  Here is a list of products we do not cover under our services:

  • Frozen foods
  • Refrigerated products (except fermented foods)
  • Kombucha (or alcohol-based products)
  • Meat and poultry products (except jerky)
  • Beverages or juice products
  • Cold filled, shelf stable products (except mayonnaise)
  • Herbal tinctures

We do not provide shelf-life tests or nutrition facts labels, but we do have several labs in Maine that provide these services. (See Resources.)

We do not provide heavy metals or PFAs testing, and we are not able to test products for suspected foodborne bacterial pathogens.  If you suspect you might have a foodborne illness, immediately call your doctor or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.  If you suspect the food product is a manufactured food, feel free to contact the Maine Dept. of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to report the illness, or from a Maine food eating establishment (restaurant, food truck), contact the Maine Health Inspection Program.

Examples of tests required for certain food products:

  • Pickled foods, condiments, 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, some jam and jelly products, and dry spice mixes/rubs.  If you have any questions in regards to testing or processing requirements, please contact Beth prior to submitting new products online.

Our current turnaround time may vary due to the pandemic, product volume submitted for testing, and other time commitments, 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 hours 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.

Beth Calder, Ph.D.
Director of Food Testing Services
Extension Food Science Specialist and Professor of Food Science
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

What is required for the testing and review process:

  • REQUIRED: The batch recipe ingredients must be converted to 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.
  • Review letters with the test results will be automatically sent via email to the person listed on the account, as soon as the review letter is completed (~4-6 week turnaround time).
  • 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 separately.
  • 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 (the final product label is not required).
  • Include a business card or note with name and address when mailing in samples.
  • 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 Melissa Libby Babcock at 207.581.2788 or melissa.libby1@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 (*We will be raising our testing prices summer 2022)

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 and are entered into a password-protected system. However, test results/review letters 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 are no longer required in Hitchner Hall, but please check with Melissa, as UMaine mask mandates may change. 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 above (Hitchner Hall address).

Other Resources

REMINDER: 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.