New guidance on setting shelf-life highlights fridge temperatures as an issue
Campden BRI has updated guidance on shelf-life setting for the food industry. The new guidance is a result of close collaboration with industry experts to align it with recent developments in the area of shelf-life evaluation, including the implementation of new EU microbiological criteria regulation and EU recommendations for setting a shelf-life. The guidance has been extended beyond chilled foods to include ambient stored foods such as sauces, pickles, jam and drinks.
It will help food and drink manufacturers establish accurate shelf-lives for their food products, ensuring they maintain key sensory, chemical and microbiological characteristics at the time they’re consumed.
Microbiologist and author of the new guidelines Linda Everis said:
“The new guidance has been prepared by food manufacturers, retailers and regulatory bodies, in conjunction with Campden BRI scientists, to provide a single source of information on shelf-life testing. It also rationalises the many storage times and temperatures currently used in the chilled foods industry into one document. This will save manufacturers time that would have otherwise been spent searching for the most current guidance.
“Our guidance covers the ins and outs of shelf-life from the associated definitions to the influencing factors such as heat processing, hygiene and packaging. The document’s primary focus is to help food business operators evaluate shelf-life. It begins this process with a flow chart which allows them to visualise the entire shelf-life evaluation sequence from the kitchen pilot scale stage through to the factory trials and product production stages, which is handy for planning how long a product’s evaluation process will take. Each part of this sequence is explained in detail with the food manufacturer in mind to ensure they can follow it step-by-step and therefore successfully bring their product to market with an accurate shelf-life.”
The new guidance document will help food business operators overcome the usual challenges associated with setting a shelf-life. It reveals new research about the temperature of consumers’ fridges to provide food manufacturers with an understanding of the conditions that food is kept in, once it is in consumer's hands.
“Consumers generally think of shelf-life as the ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ dates but, for industry, setting dates is much more complex, with considerations for processing, packaging, storage, distribution and handling by consumers. Once a product is in the consumer’s hands, there is a loss of control over how it is handled – particularly in terms of temperature exposure. The UK Food Standards Agency recommend consumers’ fridges to be below 5°C. We conducted a study that found 53% of consumer fridges were over this temperature and 16% were over 8°C, the legal maximum that chilled foods can be stored at in the UK. This is a concern considering the general assumption that food will be kept under 5°C when with the consumer. These findings will have an impact on what food manufacturers currently consider when evaluating a shelf-life.”
Campden BRI collaborated with a working party made up of manufacturers, retailers, distributors and competent authorities to ensure the guideline document - Evaluation of microbiological shelf-life of foods (second edition) 2019 - encompassed the requirements and issues of the entire food supply chain.
The new guidance document is now available from Campden BRI.