Saturday, September 23, 2023

Food Shelf Life Testing and Method

Food shelf life testing is a process used to determine the length of time that food can be safely stored and consumed. This testing is an important part of the food industry, as it helps to ensure that food products are of the highest quality and are safe for consumers to eat.

According to Wikipedia, the shelf life of a product is the length of time that a commodity can be kept or stored without it getting bad for use, consumption, or sale. We use the term shelf life when we talk of things like cosmetics, foods, pharmaceutical drugs, beverages, medical devices, explosives, chemicals, medicines, tyres, batteries, and many perishable items.

This can also be called a best-before date in some places, so in case you got a pack of pasta and do not see the term shelf life, there’s nothing to be worried about, you can just check for the best-before, best-buy dates. A commodity that has gone beyond its expiration date may still be safe, but its quality is no longer guaranteed,  so make sure to purchase goods that are far off from their shelf life.

Companies and even individuals sometimes conduct food shelf life testing on maybe their homemade goods. For manufacturing companies, it is kind of compulsory, but what is this food shelf life testing, how can we conduct better food shelf life testing? Walk with me and learn more.

The manufacturing process of a product, the types of ingredients, packaging type, and storage conditions are what determine the length of the shelf life of a food or product.

What is shelf life testing study for food

A food shelf life testing study is the study that examines a food product’s quality and cleanliness by making it undergo serious chemical, microbiological and physical analysis that also gives food producers certainty in their product’s shelf life. For easier understanding, food shelf life testing is a collection of tests done on foods to identify when that food or product is no longer safe to eat or drink and also when the product loses its validity.

The use of technology and science has enhanced the development and acceleration of food shelf life testing as food is exposed to accelerated shelf-life testing in a controlled setting where one or more storage parameters, such as temperature, humidity, atmosphere, or light, are kept at a higher than normal level. This will enhance the rate of deterioration, resulting in a shorter than usual time for product failure.

Is shelf-life testing necessary

Food Shelf Life Testing

Well, yes shelf life testing is necessary as it reduces the amount of bacteria in food, and also ensures the safety of the consumers and the profitability of manufacturers. food shelf life testing came as a result of all the ready-to-eat foods that have a longer shelf life in the retail environment. This means that there were a lot of retail products that were out that had extended shelf life periods and the reason for this was all the science. manufacturers had to dive into sciences that would improve their product’s validity dates, and the consumers did not necessarily know what they were consuming.

This increased science of quality surrounding prolonging the life of the product meant that precautions needed to be taken to reduce the possibility of pathogens being present in foods in dangerous amounts. These safety precautions became crucial for both food manufacturers and consumers. The tests aided in identifying possible manufacturing issues and lowering the danger of product recalls, thus enhancing profitability.

Shelf life testing is necessary as it can assist you in meeting regulatory compliance requirements. In many industries, shelf life testing is essential to acquire regulatory approval for a new product. You may confirm that your product meets all criteria by completing food shelf life testing.

Frozen food shelf life testing

The normal shelf-life of frozen items is 3 to 6 months, with certain products lasting up to a year. Because of the usable duration of some of these products, their shelf life tests take a long time before it is completed. Frozen foods do deteriorate with time and are largely quality related. However, research has shown that some bacteria can survive when exposed to extreme temperatures.

Refrigeration shelf life Evaluation

Unlike frozen foods, refrigerated products have a shelf life of 6 months to 2 years depending on the specifications of the products. The samples are kept in the refrigerator at a maximum temperature of 5°C and checked for stability utilizing the three core areas of testing, which include frequent testing for spoiling organisms and pathogen screening. Unless the product fails before the desired shelf-life, trials can be extended.

Environment shelf life testing

Any food that can be kept securely at room temperature in an airtight container is called shelf-stable food or ambient food, this also includes foods that would normally be required to be stored in a refrigerator, but have been prepared or processed so that they can now be safely stored at a room temperature for longer shelf life.

Refrigerated products typically have a shelf life of 6 months to 2 years, depending on the product. Fortunately, by leaving the product in an incubator (37° C temperature range), these tests can be “expedited.” One week in the incubator represents one month’s worth of shelf life.

How do you test the shelf life of food

A shelf-life test can only be relevant for a specific product’s components, packaging, and manufacturing. Before conducting shelf-life research, it is best to have finalized and completed the recipe and processes. If any stage of the process is altered, a series of tests must be performed. There are accepted shelf life testing methods for assessing the shelf life of a food product, some of which involve:

Microbiological shelf life tests

Determining the microbiological safety of a food or product is the most critical aspect of a food shelf life test.  this means that there you are checking for germs if any are present in the product that can cause allergies, or worse, food poisoning. Furthermore, testing for food spoilage ‘germs’ is crucial to shelf-life tests, which tell us when the product has exceeded the limit of permissible ‘germs’ and is no longer safe to ingest.

Sensory and physical Tests

This is the test to determine how long the food can retain its smell, odor, etc., this can also be called a “taste test”. Food should be safe to eat and retain its look, odor, texture, and flavor throughout its shelf life. During these tests, a group of experienced or expert lab technicians are the ones who perform these taste tests to determine if the product meets all the required expectations through its shelf life.

Chemistry quality Examinations

Food quality chemistry is another important aspect of food shelf life testing. These tests assist in determining the “freshness” of the product, such as moisture content (when will the food dry out), acidity levels, pH, and so on. this kind of test can be done for foods like butter, bread, and stuff like that.

Accelerated shelf life testing

Accelerated food shelf life testing, entails the storing of products under light intensity, high temperatures, humidity, or anything similar that can speed up the rate of chemical deterioration or physical changes in a product. This method works best with products that have a longer shelf life.

How much does shelf-life testing cost

Shelf-life testing can be a complex, intimidating, and costly undertaking. Quality metrics must be monitored regularly during the duration of the test. Such testing typically lasts at least as long as the product’s specified shelf life. In certain circumstances, this might take a year or more. Such a lengthy test does not correspond to a 3-month product development cycle. The amount of sample required, as well as the price of analysis, can be enormous, so a shelf life study for 1 product can cost between $1000 to $1500 but Pricing does fall when numerous variants (flavors) of the same product are included in a single study.

What would happen if a product fails its food shelf life testing

When a product fails its food shelf life testing, it means that such food is no longer safe or effective to use. in some circumstances, such as drugs, failing a shelf life test can result in major health issues for consumers most especially in some cases, it also means that such product is no longer safe or viable, so it must be discarded.

In any case, it is critical to make sure that the product does not fail their shelf life tests, and a way to do this is to closely regulate the manufacturing process and storage conditions of your products carefully. Another way to do this is by identifying potential problems that may occur, and then correcting them before the product goes to the market and finds its way to the consumer. These are ways by which manufacturers can help ensure that the products are always safe and effective throughout their shelf life.


Food shelf life testing is usually a complicated and strenuous process even though the outcome is beneficial. it is not something that can be done in your house, except if you are a laboratory technician and have a lot of equipment in your house. it is always advisable to reach out to those who can do the work and also help you meet the legal requirements at the same time.

Daniel Ejiogu
Daniel Ejiogu
Lover of Nature.

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