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The shelf life of food

The term shelf life indicates the commercial life of a product.
Shelf life can be distinguished between:

● Primary shelf life: i.e., the period of time after production and packaging, during which food maintains an adequate level of quality under specific storage conditions.
● Secondary shelf life: i.e., the period of time in which a food maintains acceptable hygienic and nutritional characteristics after opening the package.
During the period between production and sale, products undergo inevitable changes in their organoleptic characteristics. This will determine a progressive decay of their quality, which must not, however, compromise their health and hygiene safety, so as not to subject the consumer to risk factors.
Once shelf life is over, products are considered unsuitable for sale and consumption.
It is important to remember that, even if they are related parameters, shelf life it is not synonymous with “expiration date / best before” nor with “best before preferably by ". These last parameters should be determined after an accurate evaluation of product shelf life.
But what does shelf life depend on?
The shelf life of a food depends first of all on the characteristics of the product, such as for example ingredients, chemical-physical properties, microbiological profile and the possible presence of additives with preservative action.

Which are the factors that can help extend shelf life?
The elements that can contribute to prolong the shelf life of products are:
  • Packaging, which constitutes a sort of barrier for food.
  • Manufacturing or transformation processes that the product has undergone
  • Temperature control: fundamental element for maintaining shelf life of food both regarding the proliferation of microorganisms and chemical processes.
If a product is undergoing a degradation, its shelf life will be reduced: as the temperature increases, shelf life decreases; chemical reactions can double in time, as the temperature increases by 10 ° C.
Therefore, a correct storage temperature prevents the proliferation of microorganisms and the consequent risk of intoxication or infections.

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