What is shelf life study?
A shelf life study is an objective means to determine how long a food product can reasonably be stored and used, without any appreciable change in quality. A product that has passed its shelf life might still be safe, but quality can no longer be guaranteed. The shelf life of a product begins from the time the food is prepared or manufactured. This is indicated on the food label generally as ‘Best Before’ claims. A separate study needs to be carried out for each type of product. The food label is required to detail the shelf life and the storage instructions to meet the shelf life. Why do shelf life studies? Shelf life studies are beneficial to both consumer and producers. For Food Producers: It gives the food producers an insight into their formulation and processing variables. A methodical shelf life study can certainly benefit the manufacturers in terms of packaging improvements, additive additions or any other process developments for their products that would help their product to retain its quality over a longer period of time. For Consumer: Shelf life studies enable the consumers to decide whether the product they are buying has retained its quality after its production. What affects shelf life of food products? Quality of the food product can be affected due to microbial or non microbial spoilage. Microbial Spoilage: The growth of yeast, molds, and bacteria may lead to food spoilage or in some cases even poisoning. The time required for microbial growth and subsequent food spoilage depends on temperature and storage conditions of the product, handling conditions of the product etc. Non microbial spoilage: This kind of spoilage occurs due to changes in temperature, Humidity or Light. Light induced change can cause rancidity, vitamin loss or color loss of the product. Increase in temperature can cause the product to lose its nutrients. Moisture gain in product can make the product susceptible to microbial growth. Food spoilage due insects and rodents or product package tampering also should be considered. Analysis and Beyond How to carry out Shelf-life studies? Shelf life study can be carried out by two methods Real Time Method: This is a direct method and involves storing the product under preselected conditions for a period of time more than the expected shelf life of the product. Accelerated Study: This is an indirect method and involves storing the product under accelerated storage conditions like high temperature and humidity. Commercial pressures usually mean that a product must be marketed as quickly as possible after its development. This method therefore is suitable as it consumes less time as compared to the real time method. The results obtained from the accelerated studies are then extrapolated to get the real time shelf life. In both the cases product is tested at periodic intervals to see when the spoilage begins. When do I end the shelf life study of my product? The end of the shelf life study can be determined based on following factors Microbial evaluation like plate count, yeast and mold count or other typical tests Sensory evaluation like color and odor of the product Chemical evaluation like peroxide value or pH of the product Physical evaluation like consistency or texture of product When a product starts showing the signs of spoilage, the quality of the product also starts deteriorating. Thus with the help of above evaluations one can determine the shelf life of a food product.
How long a shelf life should my product have?
All foods spoil with time, but there is considerable variation in spoilage rates. Shelf life studies are unique and vary from product to product.