Understandably, many cooks would like to submit their homemade sauce in a competition but, find that all mail-in competitions require that the entry be a commercial sauce and labeled with a UPC. There are several reasons for these requirements.
First, there is food safety
There is no way to determine the process used to create a sauce, the bottling of the sauce or the sanitation followed in the creation of the sauce. Every cook has different standards. At competitions, we have all seen someone lick their fingers or wipe their fingers on a dirty cloth and touch food to be submitted and think nothing about it. Tasting sauces at homes and competitions usually involves sticking a little finger into the sauce licking it as though that finger is somehow cleaner than an index finger for this purpose.
Luckily, we all have plenty of acid in our digestive system and other protection against many pathogens and, for the most part, these actions are fairly safe. In particular, a sauce newly cooked would normally be free of live bacteria and other pathogens making it acceptable and safe to consume. Sauce that is bottled and stored for weeks or months poses a different problem. Given time, any live bacteria that only numbered a few hundred at the bottling stage multiple into the millions.
Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli and Listeria bacteria in food cause food borne illnesses.
Staphylococcus and Clostridium botulinum bacteria produce a toxin (or poison) as a byproduct of growth and multiply in food and cause food intoxication.
Clostridium perfringens can multiply in food to cause food poisoning.
At at sauce competitions, the entries are tasted by dozens of judges. If only a single entry is contaminated, there is the potential for many people to become ill or worse. This risk is reduced by allowing only commercially available sauces for the competition.
Second, the common standard prohibits unknown submissions
We dislike this part as much as the next person but, submissions from individuals in unlabeled or homemade labeled containers present a risk that is no longer acceptable. There is very little that can be done to verify the identity of a person submitting a sauce. The risk of unintended contamination is sufficient to require commercial preparation but, the risk of intended contamination must be considered.
At a competition, the teams are personally present, have experience preparing sanitary food and have their reputation on the line. These small differences are enough to address the concerns of safety and altered products. With a mail-in competition, these safeguards are not present and the risk is greater.
For these reasons, all submissions to mail-in BBQ sauce competitions are usually required to be commercial sauces. Our Sauce Championship follows these same standards. We hope that competitors understand and, at competition, in your home, at your smoker, we will gladly taste and enjoy all your cooking, spices and sauces.