A Guide to Calculating the Shelf Life of Foods

What is shelf life?

Shelf life is a guide for the consumer of the period of time that food can be kept before it starts
to deteriorate, provided any stated storage conditions have been followed.
The shelf life of a product begins from the time the food is prepared or manufactured. Its length
is dependent on many factors including the types of ingredients, manufacturing process, type of
packaging and how the food is stored. It is indicated by labelling the product with a date mark.

Is the shelf life of food related to food safety?

Shelf life testing describes how long a food will retain its quality during storage. Controlling the pathogen content (safety) of foods should be achieved by using a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.
Predictive modelling or challenge testing can be used to assess pathogen growth.
However, food safety and product shelf life are inextricably linked. During the shelf life of a food it should:

  • Remain safe to eat
  • Keep its appearance, odour, texture and flavour
  • Meet any nutritional claims provided on the label

Content of this Guide

  • What is shelf life?
  • Is the shelf life of food related to food safety?
  • What are the regulations relating to shelf life?
  • Who is responsible for calculating a shelf life?
  • Who influences the shelf life?
  • Factors influencing the shelf life of a product
  • What is a shelf life study?
  • Step by step determination of shelf life
  • by the direct method
  • What are indirect methods?
  • What is challenge testing?

You can read and download the guide.

A Guide to Calculating the Shelf Life of Foods.pdf (459.9 KB)

“Source: Ministry for Primary Industries and licensed by MPI for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence."


thank you for sharing

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Thank you for sharing