Why are we undertaking this project?
Establishing an accurate shelf-life is key to a product’s success. The shelf-life should allow the product to be economically viable and minimise
waste whilst maintaining key sensory, chemical and microbiological characteristics. It is therefore vital that the correct procedure is used
when assessing shelf-life.
What are we doing as part of this project?
Setting up working groups comprising producers, retailers and – potentially - government bodies to reconsider the methods and procedures used to
define microbiological shelf-life. This includes conducting practical studies to define the best practice approaches and recommendations.
Guidance will subsequently be updated and released.
Current status of the project
In the first year of this project a working group was set up consisting of manufacturers, retailers
and government bodies. They provided guidance on the updating of
Guideline 46 (Evaluation of the shelf-life of chilled
foods). The scope of the
guideline has been extended to cover foods other than chilled and background information on
why particular storage temperatures have been recommended.
A survey of 35 domestic fridges
carried out to provide some information on what temperature is most applicable for the consumer period
of shelf-life. It was found that 53% of fridges were above 5oC and,
whilst 84% were 8oC or below, 16% of fridges were running
above 8oC. A
practical study using cooked sliced ham stored at various time/temperature regimes
has also been carried out and has shown that there can be a big difference in achievable shelf-life
depending on the regime followed. The next stage is to look at open shelf-life and the effect on
microflora types and levels when products are stored in consumers fridges.