The shelf-life of a food item is the period during which it is safe to eat. In the course of its shelf life, the product will be in good condition and will retain the desired chemical, sensory, physical, and microbiological qualities.
Understanding the shelf life of your product is vital to ensure the quality and safety of the products. It is essential to review shelf life after products are modified because altering or reducing the amount of sugar, salt, or preservatives could have a significant impact on shelf life.
What factors affect the shelf life?
Shelf life is affected by numerous aspects of good manufacturing practices and the formulation of the product. These factors are frequently used to block the growth of microbes and control the shelf life of microbiological products. This is referred to as the hurdle technology.
Modified gas atmospheres created during the process of packaging or during bottled and jarred packaged goods storage will affect the growth of microbial and chemical reactions. In the same way, the gas, light, and packaging material permeability will affect shelf time.
Raw materials introduce microorganisms as well as sensory characteristics into products. The variation of the materials used to make them could result in these attributes changing within the product, which could alter the shelf life. For instance, coleslaw that is made from freshly harvested cabbage will have a lower amount of yeast than the cabbage that has been stored cold and consequently will last longer in shelf duration. It’s also important to know whether there are any in-house or other requirements that you need to adhere to. For more specific advice, you can look up how to establish microbiological standards.
Every processing process has a significant impact on the microflora as well as the biochemical, chemical, and sensory characteristics of food. Small changes in one form of the process could affect the characteristics of the food and can be vital to the shelf-life of the food – for example, with cottage cheese, minor changes in pH between 4.5-5.5 can have a significant impact on the types of spoilage microorganisms that could grow. Furthermore, such changes could lead to the development of pathogens should they make it through the processor, in the end, contaminating the food.
The formulation for the product
The intrinsic characteristics of the product, like pH, salt, and water activity, which have been identified as crucial for product stability – have to be met, in order in order to ensure that the products made to specifications are in line with the shelf-life that is claimed for the product.
Distribution and storage
The way the product is stored during both retail display and transport will significantly impact shelf life. The temperature of storage is the primary impact. However, humidity and light will also affect the shelf life. Customers might have different expectations regarding the temperature and time the product is kept at. So it’s possible that one product will require multiple shelf lives when the manufacturer serves multiple customers.
Insufficient hygiene control can cause high levels of organisms that are introduced into the product, which could affect the quality and safety of the product, and consequently alter its shelf-life – for example, poor cleanliness of equipment used to slice meat can increase the number of microbiological counts and shorten the shelf-life of meat that has been cooked.
The way a consumer buys, stores and utilizes the product can affect the shelf-life of the product. For instance, the length of time that the product remains in the fridge at the store and how it is transported to their residence. When the product is returned home, how is it stored? For instance, the juice might not be returned to the fridge, but the carton could be left at the counter for some time.
The shelf-life of food items is affected by chemical, microbiological and sensory factors and, in certain cases, the legislative specifications. Shelf life must be determined based on the sound principles of science that consider all relevant manufacturing, formulation distribution, storage, and distribution factors. The right shelf-life for a product can be crucial for success in commercializing a brand new product and should be considered at the beginning of the development process for a new product.
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