Water activity: an extra barrier to microbial growth in sauces and dressings

Water activity: an extra barrier to microbial growth in sauces and dressings

Ranch dressing, nacho cheese sauce, chocolate syrup, and caramel dip all have high water activity values.  What keeps them microbially safe?  Combining good manufacturing practices with low pH, low water activity, or both.  

The primary quality measurement on sauces and dressings is usually pH. Many are acidic enough to control microbial growth without help from water activity.  Still, water activity can act as a secondary hurdle to microbial growth, providing an extra barrier against potential problems and allowing the means for gentler forms of preservation.

Low acid jams and jellies need water activity as a critical control point

Jams typically have a lot of sugar in them and, depending on the fruit ingredient, may also be acidic.  In less acidic jams, water activity acts as the critical control point because sugar’s ability to lower water activity prevents the growth of microorganisms.

Fast answers with no sample prep

Quality control in sauces and dressings requires getting readings quickly, and confirming that products are in spec. The AQUALAB 4TE gives readings in under 5 minutes, without calibration or fussy sample prep.

Learn more about water activity in syrups, sauces, and jams

In the following webinar, Dr. Brady Carter reviews:

  • How water activity and pH work together for product safety
  • The relationship between Brix levels and water activity
  • How to control water activity with humectants
  • Methods for predicting water activity during formulation
  • How moisture loss affects water activity values

Get the complete picture

Learn everything about how water activity can increase your profit and improve product quality and safety—all in one place.

Download The Food Manufacturer’s Complete Guide to Water Activity—>

Learn how to predict shelf-life using water activity.

Download The Food Manufacturer’s Complete Guide to Shelf Life—>

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Measure water activity in 5 minutes

Not a “quick mode” reading, but a direct measure of water activity to 0.003. No calibration, no approximation.

Webinar: Water Activity in Syrups, Sauces, and Jams

Use water activity to control and predict safety and quality in syrups, sauces, jams, and dressings.