Accelerated Stability Testing & Shelf Life Testing for Food Products in Food Industry:

A shelf life validation Testing determines the quality of food product and hygiene by undergoing a thorough chemical, physical, as well as microbiological analysis and gives food manufacturers and producers confidence of their product’s shelf life. Shelf Life Testing ensures to keep their brand and consumers safe. It is manufacturer’s responsibility to determine shelf life. The number of days that a product remains stable at the recommended storage conditions is referred to as the products shelf-life. Two types of stability testing are commonly used to estimate Shelf Life of a product. Real-time Shelf life stability testing and accelerated stability testing. During an accelerated study, a product is stored at elevated stress conditions and the degradation at the recommended storage conditions can be predicted using known relationships between the acceleration factor and the degradation rate.

Determination of best before dates:

There are potentially many questions to be answered about product deterioration and many approaches to getting the answers. If products have a long shelf life then real time testing is not likely to fit in with product development cycles. In many cases accelerated stability testing can be used to estimate shelf life; but technical expertise is a necessity. Real time testing—after the product has been launched if necessary—should be used to verify estimated best before dates.

Accelerated stability testing typically involves storing products at high temperature / humidity / light intensity or similar. Products are tested following storage for different times and conditions. For some products, tests other than those used for routine quality control might be required. The calculations to convert the results of testing into an estimated shelf life are complex.

Importance of Shelf Life Testing for Food Industry:

Conducting food product shelf life testing is important and it helps you to identify the causes of reduced shelf life and improve food products, Food processing and ultimately profitability. With accurate dates for food products, one can ensure health and safety to consumers. This will reduce the risk of product recalls while contributing to maintaining your brand’s integrity and reputation.

  • The ‘health reason’ is applicable to food that is intended by the manufacturer to form the sole source of nutrition for a person’s diet for a specified period. This will apply where storage affects the critical nutrient profile of products such as infant formula or special dietary foods manufactured to provide the sole source of nutrition to persons who are ill or are unable to eat normal foods. •
  • The ‘safety reason’ is applicable to food that can become microbiologically unsafe before the food noticeably spoils. This will not apply to shelf stable, frozen or most raw foods or ready-to-eat food but may apply to certain chilled ready-to-eat foods, for example chilled meals and salads. Development of use by dates for safety reasons is discussed below.

WAFA’s Shelf Life Testing Services includes the following tests or factors that could influence food spoilage to be considered for shelf life validation study. These include:

  • Microorganisms: Food born microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, and mold are the most common microorganisms that can cause food spoilage based on the nature of food per GSO standard. They can grow on food and produce enzymes that break down the food’s structure, leading to spoilage.
    • Temperature: The growth of microorganisms is greatly influenced by temperature. Food should be stored at the appropriate temperature to slow down the growth of microorganisms and prevent spoilage.
    • Oxygen: Oxygen can cause food to spoil by promoting the growth of microorganisms and causing oxidation reactions in the food.
    • Moisture: Microorganisms need moisture to grow, so food that is high in moisture is more susceptible to spoilage.
    • Light: Light can cause food to spoil by promoting the growth of microorganisms and causing oxidation reactions in the food.
  • Chemical Change
    • pH: The pH level of food can also influence spoilage. Microorganisms tend to grow best in a neutral pH environment.
    • Water activity testing
    • Acidity Levels
    • Rancidity
    • Texture changes
    • Food Nutritional Analysis
  • Physical Damage
    • Chemical browning (visual inspection)
    • Color
    • Odor
    • Flavor loss