Food Consulting Services (FCS) supports the initiative for creating awareness around food safety and the benefits thereof.
This year FCS will help celebrate the 3rd international World Food Safety Day (WFSD) by drawing attention to the services it offers that help in the prevention of foodborne diseases through the detection of foodborne pathogens in its SANAS accredited food microbiology laboratory.
This year’s theme ‘Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow’ stresses the importance of safe food production for consumers, the environment and the manufacturer. Recognising the burden of foodborne illness, which affects all ages, can be prevented through the understanding of safe food handling, training and credible testing.
‘Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow’ brings to mind an indispensable part of food safety; shelf-life testing.
Shelf-life tests are designed to determine at what point in time a product is no longer safe to consume and when the product losses its peak quality markers.
Further to the above, the 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 is indicated by labelling the product with a date mark, which can either be a “best before” or “use by” date, depending on the product.
The need for shelf-life tests came as a result of the availability of ready-to-eat food that have extended shelf-life in our retail environment. The improved science of quality around extending the life of the product, meant that measures needed to be in place to minimise the potential for microorganisms to be present in foods in hazardous numbers.
These safety measures became critical to the food industry and to consumers and the environment by ensuring minimised food waste, increased food security through the availability of safe to consume foods.
The further benefit of shelf-life testing is that it can be used to help identify potential problems in production through detection of total counts and spoilage micro-organisms. Improvement in these parameters also reduce the risk of product recalls, ultimately increasing profitability.
How does shelf-life testing work?
The shelf life of a food product begins when the product’s processing and packaging is complete and is ready to be distributed. By performing shelf-life testing, you are able to accurately define dates for your products, ensuring that the quality remains acceptable and safe for consumers.
The most critically important test is the determination of the microbiological safety of the product. In other words, are there any ‘germs’ in the product that can cause food poisoning. In addition, testing for food spoilage ‘germs’ is integral to the shelf-life tests which tell us at what point does the product exceed the limit of allowable ‘germs’ to the point that it is no longer safe to consume.
FCS provides accredited tests for all common pathogens including;
- Listeria monocytogenes
- Staphylococcus aureus
- E.coli O157:H7
- Bacillus cereus
- Campylobacter bacteria.
The food spoilage component includes tests such as:
- Standard plate count
- Yeast and moulds
- Anaerobic Plate Count
The second key area in shelf-life testing involves food quality chemistry. These tests help determine the ‘freshness” of the product including moisture content (at what point does the product dry out), acidity levels, pH and so on.
During the shelf-life of a product, the food should remain safe to eat, maintain its appearance, odour, texture and flavour. This covers the third key area of the tests, sensory and physical evaluation. We provide a panel of experienced laboratory technicians who perform ‘taste tests’ to determine whether the product maintains expectations throughout the expected shelf-life.
Get in touch with FCS for help on how to create safe food today for a healthy tomorrow.
FCS – 011 315 5007; [email protected].