What is Shelf Life?

 There are many definitions of shelf life provided by governments and organizations. The Institute of Food Science and Technology defines shelf life as “the period of time during which the food product will remain safe; be certain to retain its desired sensory, chemical, physical, microbiological, and functional characteristics; where appropriate, comply with any label declaration of nutrition data, when stored under the recommended conditions.
Both food safety and quality are important aspects of acceptable shelf life. Although pathogens are usually monitored during shelf-life studies, a suitable food safety program is the best way to ensure the product’s safety.

Importance of Determination of Shelf Life in Food Products:

Shelf-life Analysis helps determining the length of time that a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use, consumption, or sale. Shelf-Life Analysis helps to determine this time period for any packaged food product. By analyzing the shelf life of a food product, we come to know that:

  • After a certain amount of time, the food is safe to consume, i.e., does not have any microbial growth or toxins
  • The quality of the product has not deteriorated in any way; and
  • The nutrient content in the food product has not significantly lessened in any way.

Factors that influence food shelf life

There are several factors involved in the deterioration or loss of the original quality of a food. These factors can be divided into two types: intrinsic (inherent to the nature of the food itself) or extrinsic (external conditions facing food), and are determined by different quality parameters: organoleptic, nutritional, hygienic, physical, chemical or microbiological.
The intrinsic factors that affect shelf life are those that respond to the formulation of the food. In the food industry, it is imperative that the manufacturer has the following knowledge about its products; such as Raw materials, Composition and formulation of the product (additives used), Water activity, Total acidity and pH value, Potential Redox, Available oxygen etc.
The extrinsic factors that affect the shelf life of the food are those that are present in the process, packaging and storage of the product. Mainly they are: Exposure to sunlight, Temperature, Humidity, Damage to packaging, Distribution and places of sale etc.

Conditions of Shelf Life testing:

There are generally two types of Shelf-Life testing; namely, Accelerated shelf-life testing and Real time shelf-life testing.

Accelerated shelf-life testing: The food product is conditioned and stored at an elevated temperature and/or humidity and the quality changes of the product are evaluated at a specific sampling rate. It can be 2 to 4 times faster than the real time shelf-life study.

Real time shelf-life study: Food products are stored under stated or selected conditions for longer than the expected shelf life and are checked at regular intervals to see when spoilage begins.
In both the shelf-life testing processes; organoleptic, physio chemical and microbiological evaluations are recommended.

What MSK has to offer?

Our stability and shelf-life laboratories offer multiple atmospheric conditions including 4 standard conditions below:

Condition Environment
Frozen -15°C
Refrigerated 5°C
Ambient 25°C/60%RH
Accelerated 40º C/75% RH

1. Organoleptic and Physical appearances
Important Components to Shelf-life Study:

Includes color, aroma, texture, separation, lump formation and taste which are of high interest to consumer

2. Chemical Analysis
Includes moisture content, pH, rancidity testing for oils and fats (peroxide value, free fatty acids) and active ingredients.

3. Microbiological Analysis
Aerobic plate count, Yeast and mold, Clostridium perfringens, total coliforms and e-coli, Salmonella, Pseudomonus, Staphyllococcus and so on.

Shelf Life Studies completed/ongoing at MSK

MSKs expertise on shelf life testing enables the food manufactures-

1. To delineate the “best before”, “best by” and “use by” dates,
2. Reduce the risk of market complaints and product recall.
3. Identifying the opportunity of increase product shelf life; thereby profitability.