Shelf Life

Every product has a best-by date

and will eventually spoil

Food engineering, specifically production of the products in the industry, relies on the ability to prolong the product’s shelf life and preserve its properties as much as possible, otherwise, we would consume fresh food and work hard to prepare it from scratch, every day.
The food industry has gotten a bad reputation for its preservatives, but these differ immensely and they mustn’t all be lumped together under an all-encompassing category of “preservatives”.
For example, sugar, salt and vinegar are natural preservatives, while other ingredients that aren’t household names are defined by the various standards, those that determine the manner of preservation, the type of preservation required and also the permitted amount. For example, with hummus it is necessary to acidify to a specific value to preserve and protect against rapid spoilage.
A product can spoil for numerous and diverse reasons – oxidation, fungi and mold – microbial spoilage, phase separation, caking, change of color, flavor or smell, souring, and more.
Obviously, the quality of the product and its expiration date are not defined solely by the recipe’s ingredients, but also by the equipment and the work environment that the quality assurance departments are responsible for.

When developing a new product, it is important to understand the technology and what effect the appropriate preservation for the recipe has, for example, for spreads there is a standard that defines how to preserve the product. Other products, such as pastries or cookies, are considered dried goods and therefore the natural preservation effect is the moisture activity in the product. Then comes the packaging, which will also protect the product from moisture absorption.
When a new product is developed and produced for the first time, or when the product differs from other existing products in the category, it is best to test samples for shelf-life in order to examine how the product changes over time and to reduce customer complaints over premature spoilage.

When defining a product’s shelf life, it’s important to check the relevant standard, to conduct the required tests and to understand the factors in the storage process that affect the product’s properties. When everything is done properly, defining the best-by date becomes much simpler…

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