8 Reasons You Need Shelf-Life Testing

This is why shelf-life studies are on the rise and why it is an important part of every quality program.

1 Meet Regulatory Requirements

Regulations require that products be labeled with an expiration, best-by, or sell-by date.


2 Ensure Quality / Reduce Consumer Complaints

Shelf-Life testing helps your company guarantee quality throughout the lifecycle of the product. A proper expiration date helps ensure that customers are using the product during its peak of quality. It also deters customers from using your product past that peak. If they still do, they may not attribute those quality issues to your company.


3 Ensure Consumers Experience Your Product As Intended

You worked so hard to develop the perfect product, right? Make sure your consumers experience it exactly as approved from your test kitchen! There is a timeframe a product can be stored before its quality deteriorates past what your team finds acceptable to represent that product. Companies perform shelf-life testing to precisely determine that timeframe. By doing this, you can guarantee the quality of the product is still as intended when consumers enjoy it.


4 Keep Consumers Safe

Shelf-life testing shows you what can grow in your product over time. You can use that information to determine the point at which your product may no longer be safe for consumption. An accurate expiration date on your packaging is crucial to keeping consumers safe. This is because it deters them from consuming products past their prime.


5 Make Distribution-Chain Decisions

Knowing the shelf life of your product will tell you the exact timeframe you have for your product to pass through the distribution chain. Understanding this timeframe can help you decide the best distribution channels, transportation partners, and retailers for your product. It will also tell you how long the product will have on the shelves once it finally arrives at its retailer.


6 Make Production Volume Decisions

Understanding the shelf life of your product helps your team balance between economies of scale and preventing costly product loss. The latter being due to products held in inventory beyond their expiration or sellable date.


7 Prevent Recalls

Shelf Life testing helps determine an accurate expiration or best-by date for a product. But why is this important? What happens if the expiration date is inaccurate? If the product becomes spoiled before the printed date, your company may need to issue a recall. In addition to costing the company substantial financial losses, recalls also damage the company’s reputation and the reputation of its products.


8 Protect the Reputation of Your Brand and Product

Recalls, safety, and quality issues are all things that can hurt the reputation of your company, brand, and products. You can help protect your company’s reputation by ensuring consumers experience your product(s) as intended. You can also do this by preventing large recalls due to safety or quality issues from inaccurately marked expiration dates.


Interested in performing a study with us? Contact our experts for a quote today!

5 Things Every Manager Needs to Know About Shelf-Life Testing

What is Shelf-Life?

Shelf-life is the length of time that a product can be stored while remaining usable and fit for consumption or sale.

What Can I Learn From Performing Shelf-Life Testing On My Product(s)?

Shelf-life testing can help you learn many valuable things about your product, including:

  1. In what way your product changes with time and storage conditions.
  2. How long your product can be stored before the quality deteriorates to the point at which it is unfit or unsafe for use.
  3. How quickly the quality of the product declines under various storage conditions.
  4. What changes occur (microbiological, chemical, physical, and sensory) in your product over time.
  5. The timeframe you have for distribution and storage of your product.

Why is Shelf-Life Testing Important?

Shelf-life testing is essential for:

  1. Ensuring customer satisfaction
  2. Determining accurate expiration dates
  3. Providing insights to product development and formulation personnel
  4. Brand name protection
  5. Production volume decisions

When Do I Need A Shelf-Life Study?

Shelf-life studies should be conducted under the following situations:

  1. During product formulation or before a new product launch (new)
  2. When you modify a formulation, process, or storage condition (change)
  3. When a consumer complains or when a product spoils before the stated shelf life (corrective action)
  4. Periodically to ensure that the product is performing as desired and expected (verification)

Where Should Shelf-Life Studies be Conducted?

It is best to conduct shelf-life studies at a laboratory. This is because they can provide guidance and a controlled environment. However, make sure that you choose a laboratory with the research capacity, experience, and expertise to properly design and conduct an accurate study. For example, AEMTEK is one of these such laboratories.

Experience and knowledge are important because knowing what types of analyses to perform is vital to achieving accurate results. Knowledgeable experts will decide what to test based on product specifications and storage conditions. These experts will also recommend how often to test samples during the study. We refer to these testing intervals as “test points”.

Lastly, the study also must take place under environmental conditions that mimic real life. Whoever is performing the testing must reliably — and exactly — maintain the determined environmental conditions for the duration of the study.

Interested in performing a study with us? Contact our experts for a quote today!


Checklist To Your EMP Program

Risk Assessment

The first step is to complete a risk assessment of biological  hazards in your facility. You have likely already started this as part of your hazard analysis. Take into account your ingredients, the flow of production, your facility, and the nature of your operation to identify which specific pathogens may exist in – or enter- your environment.

Sampling Plan

Your next step is to create your environmental sampling plan, including the 4 major elements below.

1. Create a map of your facility, separated into Hygienic Zones

Zone 1 All food contact surfaces
Zone 2 Nonfood contact surfaces which are closely adjacent to food contact surfaces. These areas could lead to direct contamination of the food contact surfaces (Zone 1). Examples include overpasses, control panels, equipment legs, metal detectors, drip shields, hollow pipes and rollers, door gaskets, etc.
Zone 3 Nonfood contact surfaces that are not adjacent to food contact surfaces (Zone 1). Pathogens in this zone could cause contamination to Zone 2 through employee’s actions or movement of machinery. Examples of Zone 3 areas include forklifts, walls, floors, drains, plant entrances, etc.
Zone 4 Areas outside the processing environment. Examples include the warehouse, offices, locker rooms, washrooms, lunchrooms, etc.

2. Define a procedure for exactly how you will collect your samples

Who will perform the sampling? When will the sampling be done? What types of samples will be taken (Air, Swab, Water)? Have instructions for taking each type of sample. What sampling supplies will you use?

3. Define how often you will conduct each type of sampling (Air, Swabbing, water, etc.)

Will you conduct sampling daily, weekly, etc.

4. Define where you will take samples and what type of samples they will be (Air, swabbing, etc.).

For each of your Hygienic Zones, what are the exact locations from which you will be sampling? What will you be testing for on each sample? How many samples will be taken from each area or piece of equipment?

Need help with your environmental sampling plan? AEMTEK’s experts are available and ready to help! Contact us.

Plan for Analysis

Define what tests need to be done and how you will have the samples analyzed. Will you use a third-party laboratory? If so, include the name of the Laboratory, ensure they are properly accredited, and keep their accreditations on file in this section.

View AEMTEK’s accreditations here

Learn more about AEMTEK’s Environmental Monitoring Testing

Corrective Action Procedures

Define how you will respond to a positive result on one of your samples. What will you do?

Negative EMP Results Aren’t Always Good

Negative pathogen testing results could mean that your environment is squeaky clean (congratulations!). However, it could also mean that you’re just not looking hard enough! Never having a pathogen detection in your environmental monitoring program could indicate there are gaps in your sampling plan. Perhaps the plan simply isn’t representative enough of the environment and is not doing its job.

Quality Assurance Managers should think of their Environmental Swabbing as a hunt for pathogens, instead of as a test to pass or fail for their auditors to see. You want to ensure that you have checked every nook and cranny and feel confident that there is no way these sneaky pathogens could have evaded your swabbing protocol and cause subsequent contamination in your facility.

Remember, pathogens can enter the production environment at any time they have a chance. The job of the environmental monitoring  program is to ensure that the sanitation protocol has completely eliminated any pathogens that have entered the facility before they cause contamination. Wouldn’t you rather get a positive sponge test, letting you know to re-sanitize, than not find out about the contamination until it shows up on an analysis of a finished good, or causes illness to customers?

Concerned your EMP may not be thorough enough? Contact our experts for a review of your current EMP!

If You Test For Listeria, Should You Also Test For Salmonella?

The vehicles by which Listeria enters a food production facility are largely also sources by which Salmonella makes its way into the environment, such as through contaminated soil, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. Once these organisms enter the production environment, they can grow, spread, and make their way into products, causing contamination.

It can be easy to pass over Salmonella as a risk in your cold, refrigerated environments seeing as those conditions do not support the growth of the pathogen. However, while Salmonella maybe not able to grow under the same refrigerated conditions that Listeria can, it does survive in them. In fact, Salmonella can survive in most conditions under which Listeria can grow, maintaining the risk for contamination and subsequently illness. Therefore, if your environmental monitoring program includes swabbing for Listeria, you might want to consider taking samples for Salmonella testing as well.

Think this might apply to you? Contact us to find out!