Food Product Shelf Life

Food Product Shelf Life Information

Shelf-life is usually done using a BC Food Screen as a baseline. The tests in this screen can be modified to better fit a specific food product and regulatory requirements. The typical/ideal time line is as follows:

Day 1
24 or 48 hours
10 days or 1/2 way through the expected shelf-life
at the end of expected shelf-life
1/2 past the shelf-life

Samples are submitted to the lab in discrete packages with instructions on how the product is to be held during the testing. Alternatively, the manufacturer can submit samples at the given time intervals.

The shelf-life testing can be stopped at any time. For example, if there are issues found with the Day 1, it would be best to halt the remaining tests until problems have been resolved.

It is recommended that ‘real’ product shelf-life be shortened to give the manufacturer some buffer time in the event product is purchased and consumed slightly after the stated date.

When a food product is made, each batch should be labelled with a lot number. This is often an alpha code (flavour, type) with a date code (365 day calendar + year). Example: PC 2121 = peach chutney 2012 30 May.

Manufacturers should always hold a typical example of each batch (lot) of product for the full shelf-life. These are called library samples. This does 2 things. One, it provides an untouched product of that specific lot # in the event of a problem during marketing (including tampering, customer complaints etc). The second, is that it provides the manufacturer a sample on which to 'test' the organoleptic qualities of the product at the end of the shelf-life. Unused product at the end of published shelf-life can also be used for marketing & sales examples.

Products produced for wholesale will require nutrient labelling. This needs to be done only once provided that the product recipe and production has not been significantly changed. Products produced for farmers and street markets may require a certificate for pH or water activity in order to sell food without refrigeration.

Manufacturers generally are regulated through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Direct and retail food to the public are regulated through the Provincial Health Authorities.

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