So You Want to Sous Vide or Vacuum Package
Before you buy equipment for Sous Vide cooking or to vacuum package foods in your kitchen, a pre-conference with a Health Inspector to ask about requesting a variance is highly recommended. If you are serious about Sous Vide cooking it is recommended that you first visit the following Website by Douglas Baldwin http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html. The Baldwin Website provides training presentations and technical information on Sous Vide.
Without a Variance issued by your Local Health Authority and an approved HACCP plan you may have to throw out all your products that have been Sous Vide cooked or vacuum packed. Vacuum package foods provide ideal conditions for botulism and other disease causing bacteria to grown. Botulism toxins can be deadly.
A variance is a written document issued by the regulatory authority that authorizes a modification or waiver of one or more requirements of Health Code requirements. Temperatures used in Sous Vide cooking are lower than those required in the Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER). Hence, you need a variance to use lower than required cooking temperatures. The purpose of the HACCP plan is to ensure that the procedures to be used will be sufficient to protect your customers from botulism and other pathogens. This Webpage provides information on how to obtain a variance from your Local Health Authority and examples of HACCP Plans that you will need to obtain a variance (click on hyperlinks).