Shelf Life Testing
Shelf Life Testing To Determine The Expectant Shelf Life for your Product
Turnaround depends on the shelf life you are trying to achieve.
If you are selling your food product in a retail environment; then your retailer will more than likely require a shelf life test. At some point, you should strongly consider getting shelf life testing to give your product a valid expiration date.
RL Food Testing Laboratory offers real time microbiological shelf life testing from as short as 5 days up to 1 year – depending on what shelf life expectancy you are trying to achieve.
Shelf life testing includes 6 test points that are measured in equal intervals depending on your ingredients.
The following microbes will be tested during your shelf life testing service:
- Water Activity
- Aerobic Plate Count
We will recommend having additional microbes tested such as salmonella, E. Coli, listeria and staph aureus, at an additional cost, depending on your ingredients.)
You will receive a report at the end of each testing point. If at any point during the shelf life testing, we will notify you if the bacterial counts greatly increase. Otherwise, we will provide updates at each shelf life testing interval.
You will receive your final report at the end of your shelf life testing service. Our staff microbiologist will write a report summarizing the results. No other labs offer this summary report and it is included as part of your shelf life testing service at no extra charge. The report is written in layperson’s terms to help you understand the laboratory results – no other lab offers this service.
What is accelerated shelf life testing? There is a type of testing that can accelerate the testing of a product but there are some important aspects of it that you need to know
- Most retailers will not accept an accelerated shelf life on it’s how result
- It must be run simultaneously with the microbiological shelf life testing – which means you are paying for two tests
- It subjects the product to a stress test that simulates heat, light and pressure to simulate a shelf presence. The test becomes a calculated result versus an actual result
- The turnaround time depends on the shelf life estimate but a good rule of thumb is 1 week for each month of expected shelf life
- The cost can exceed $2,000 per sample
Shelf Life Testing
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Fill Out Lab Information Form
After we receive your payment, we’ll email you our Lab Product Information Form.
Please fill out the form and include it with your samples.
Ship Your Samples and Form
Ship six (6) 4oz freshly prepared samples, in the EXACT packaging you plan to sell the product in, to our lab.
FedEx or UPS / 1 or 2 day air
Samples shipped in glass containers must be double bubble wrapped and labeled “CONTAINS GLASS” on the outside of the package.
*if using glass packaging – submit one additional sample in case of breakage.
If refrigerated, pack with cold packs
Include your completed Lab Information Form.
We’ll email your results and explanation.
You’ll receive a lab report showing your results at the end of each testing point and an explanation provided by our staff microbiologist.
Turnaround depends on shelf life expectancy you are trying for.
CONTACT US 7 DAYS A WEEK
Shelf Life Testing
Includes 5 test points. The following microbes will be tested during your shelf life testing service:
2. Water Activity
5. Aerobic Plate Count
Testing Points Reports
At the end of each (5) testing points, we will email you a report summarize the status of your shelf life testing.
Explanation of Results
Our staff microbiologist will provide an explanation of your shelf life testing results, making your lab report easy to understand.
What is shelf life?
Shelf life is the amount of time for which a food or beverage is considered suitable for sale or consumption. The shelf life of a food product begins at the time it is manufactured or prepared and ends at the time it becomes unsuitable for sale or consumption.
What factors can influence a shelf life?
Your product’s ingredients (recipe), how it’s processed, type of packaging, and storage temperatures – either refrigerated or shelf stable (room temperature) – can all influence the shelf life of a food or beverage product.
Is the price for a one-year shelf life test the same as the price for a one-month test?
Yes. The cost is $850 regardless of expected length of the shelf life test.
Is food safety the only concern with shelf life?
No. Some products may be safe eat for a long time, such as beef jerky or dried foods; however, you need to consider the food’s aesthetics (also known as organoleptic properties) as well:
These properties are all affected with time, and any major change in these properties will certainly affect the quality of the eating experience and therefore will affect the shelf life of the product.
What are some examples of the shelf life of different products?
Here are a few shelf life duration guidelines that we have collected over the years, which may give you some idea of how long to your product will need to be tested for.
- Beef Jerky: 9 months-1 year
- BBQ Sauces: 4 months-6 months
- Pasteurized Dairy Products: 3 weeks
- Raw Juices: 5 days
- Cakes, Cookies & Other Bakery Goods WITH Preservatives: 30 days
- Salsa: 3 months-4 months
How long should I test my product for?
As a guideline to determine the length of shelf life testing your product may require, we recommend using the shelf life of a similar product as a reference to estimate your own product’s shelf life. For this estimate, use a similar product that is currently on the market and that has ingredients similar to the those in your product.
Other factors to consider when determining shelf life estimates are whether or not your product has preservatives or if it is heat-processed to preserve freshness. Lastly, the differences between making the product in a commercial kitchen versus a home-based kitchen can greatly impact the duration of your product’s shelf life.
Is laboratory testing necessary to determine my product’s shelf life?
Lab testing is the only method to determine an accurate shelf life for a food product.
Lab testing can be expensive and time consuming; however, there is no way around it. If a food manufacturer, big or small, needs to determine an accurate best-by date for their product, then testing in a lab must be done.
How can I extend my product’s shelf life?
We offer Recipe Modification consulting and can recommend ways to extend your product’s shelf life. For example, foods that are more acidic or that have lower water content tend to have a long shelf life; therefore, adjusting these measures can increase your product’s shelf life. Additionally, many of our clients add natural preservatives (such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or citric acid) or artificial preservatives (such as stabilizers like carrageenan or xanthan gum). We can recommend the amount and type of preservatives that will best fit your product. Any expected increase in shelf life needs to be validated by submitting your product for shelf life testing.
Do you do accelerated shelf life testing?
No. Our lab only conducts real-time shelf life testing. If your shelf life is expected to be a year, then your testing will take one year.
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