Shelf life is the time duration of the food, throughout which the food quality and its nutrients stay intact, fresh, and safe to consume. In the food manufacturing industry, shelf-life plays a major role in determining the quality of the food. Where in the industry, the food is continuously exposed to the fluctuating environment, it usually loses its shelf life; therefore, it is crucial to conduct regular shelf life evaluations.
Consumers today expect to purchase high-quality fresh food items, and prefer it to stay fresh for a long time. There are several processing methods employed by the companies to extend the shelf life of their food products.
Below are a few common ways which are usually employed by the companies to increase their product’s shelf life.
Several processing methods can improve the shelf life of a food product. The most common methods are pasteurization, sterilization, fermentation. Scientific techniques like thermal processing or pasteurization involve giving mild heat treatment of below 100-degree Celsius to the food products, to decrease the microbes present in the commodity.
Another common technique of food processing is Blanching, where the food is pre-treated with mild heat with hot or boiling water. The prime aim of this technique is to cause enzyme inactivation. This is mainly employed for products like vegetables. Fruits are usually not treated under this method.
According to Fitibility.com, there are more traditional processing methods to preserve food such as canning, sugaring, drying, curing, pickling and vacuum packing. Depending on the type of food you have, you need to choose an appropriate method.
Temperature plays an essential role in determining the shelf life of a product. Food companies control the temperature during each stage of food processing and manufacturing. Manufacturing the food items in a temperature-controlled environment is the most commonly used technique to increase the shelf life of an edible product.
If at any stage during manufacturing the food product faces a temperature abuse, the shelf life can significantly reduce. A temperature-controlled environment is used during the food processing stage to give an accurate result.
Food Chemicals are widely used by companies to extend the shelf life of their products. The companies do not use chemicals directly on their products, but they first combine it with other methods, so that the chemicals do not harm the quality.
The food companies generally add antioxidants and oxygen absorbers to reduce the oxidation, which enhances the product’s shelf life. Some companies even add the oxygen absorbers in small pouches with the food packets to maintain the set life of their manufactured food products.
Modified product atmosphere
The packaging of a product can define its shelf life. Usually, the companies that deal in fresh food products pack their items in a controlled atmosphere, free of oxygen. They use the “Modified Atmosphere Packaging” technique to contain their final product, which keeps the oxygen to enter the packaging.
To protect the fresh food, the companies infuse a mixture of different gases other than oxygen into the pack, which keeps the food stay fresh for long. Some companies even use vacuum packaging to keep their products like fruits, vegetables fresh for long, which gives an attractive touch to the items and is likable by the consumers.
Food irradiation means to expose the food products and its packaging to ionizing radiation. The process of exposing the food to the radiation effectively destroys the microorganisms or harmful bacteria that are responsible for spoilage, or that can cause illness after the consumption.
While the ionizing radiation never comes directly in contact with the food, it is still able to destroy the living bacteria, insect infestation, etc. present inside. This technology improves the safety aspects of food products and plays an important role in extending the shelf life of the products. The process of product irradiation is mostly used for pasteurizing milk, canned fruits, and vegetables, etc.