The Importance of Shelf Life Testing, part 2

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In the last blog, we looked at what shelf-life testing is and why it is so important. We acknowledged the difference between use by date, best before date, shelf life testing and identified the importance of chemical and microbiological considerations when testing and analyzing food products.

In this blog, we will look at why food safety testing is so important and the importance of understanding how bacteria can impact on food products. Furthermore, we will look at challenge testing and, we will compare the real-life storage of intact product with opened product shelf life and how it is used to give a more accurate indication of shelf life.

Why is food safety testing so important?

  • Food safety testing examines the potential for growth of pathogenic microorganisms such as Salmonella, ListeriaClostridium pefringens, Bacillus cereus and Coagulase Positive Staph aureus,
  • Testing is product specific and is based on risk. Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) is an important tool in evaluating and controlling product risk as it should describe the food product in terms of the risks and hazards associated with the product.

Challenge Testing

  • Useful technique to assist in determining if food will support the growth of food poisoning or food spoilage microorganisms.
  • This process usually involves inoculating food with appropriate microorganisms and assesses growth during processing and storage. An example could be demonstrating the reduction of coli in fermented meat products.
  • This process often becomes a specialised technique that is expensive and time-consuming.

Real Life Storage Including After Opening

  • There can be a significant difference between storage at a specified temperature and actual storage conditions where maintaining temperature is a challenge. – Hence, undertaking shelf-life studies at two storage temperatures can be quite useful for chilled foods – (eg, below 40C (recommended) and 7to 80C (real life)).
  • Manufacturers often conduct shelf-life studies on opened packs of product and the findings are used to indicate how long a product should be stored at the recommended storage temperature before being consumed.

How Can Symbio Laboratories assist you with your shelf life testing?

  • Symbio Laboratories has an extensive microbiological testing capability covering food spoilage microorganisms and pathogens.
  • Our extensive range of chemistry testing includes peroxide value, water activity, pH, moisture, elements, salt, preservatives and vitamins.
  • We also have the facility to store shelf life samples at a range of temperatures to simulate ideal and real-life temperature storage conditions set by the manufacturer.
  • Symbio Laboratories is NATA accredited to ISO17025 and offer NIP testing to suit regulatory and customer requirements.

For more information about how Symbio Laboratories can assist you with your testing needs, simply click here.


Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Food Standards Code

Guidelines for the Food Standards Code

Guidelines for Food Microbiology

NSW Food Authority

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