Improving shelf life

Improving shelf life and it’s hurdles. When projecting the spores, bacteria, moulds and yeast to be the runners in an estafette final. It will be our job as formulators, product and process engineers and manufacturing management. To be obstacle course designers, with the intention to have them all fall and be stopped by one of the hurdles. The moment of falling should be minimally on or after its expiry date. It is therefore vital we know and understand which deteriorating mechanisms are revealing themselves first.

As our prime goals is to understand which mechanisms are working to deteriorate and spoil the food, so we understand what we can do to delay or prevent that food spoilage from happening, while maintaining food quality. From the microbiological point of view, we have a few options:

  • Inactivate microorganisms
  • Preventing growth
  • Restrict access to the product

When designing a product or redesigning towards new required conditions, many choices must be made by formulators. On top of that, formulators should understand the mechanisms in deterioration, so we can decide based on that which hurdle we should put first to have all the runner fall and therefore delay the product decay.

Routes to shelf life

Depending on the length of the required shelf life, most likely the routes to prolonging shelf life are:

  • Lowering your Aw
    Although having a logarithmic scale, as a rule of thumb reducing your water activity with 0.05 will double your mould-free shelf life. However, many analyses already require this tolerance.
  • Reducing pH.
    Some research indicates that this can give an increase up to 1100% of current shelf life if combined with other measurements, such as preservatives and Aw.
  • Introducing preservatives
  • Modified Atmospheric packaging or active packaging
    Reports show that shelf life can be extended up to 700% by using this technology
  • Hygiene & Sanitation
    Hygienic measurements are reported to give up to 15% extension of shelf life if you work according to ‘normal’ standards as emphasised in Europe. It is not reported how much it will improve when hygiene is poor, one can only estimate it will be over 100%.
  • Spraying ethanol
    Will give an improvement of nearly 150% if dosed around 1%/w%. As spraying ethanol is currently on its way back due to more and more people intend to produce either HALAL or do simply not want to expose children to alcohol.

Alternatives can be different antibacterial coatings based on:

  • Nisin
  • Polycyclic antibacterial peptides

Need to know more? Feel free to contact us.
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