NZ MPI releases guidance document on determining the shelf-life of food

Monday, 15 September, 2014

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released the ‘How to Determine the Shelf Life of Food’ document. The document replaces the 2005 Information Booklet for the Food Industry - A Guide to Calculating Shelf Life of Foods.

The document is intended to help food operators who process, prepare and handle food to determine the shelf-life of their food and apply appropriate date marking. The guide is also useful for other food operators who process, prepare and handle foods for retail sale under the Food Act 1981, Animal Products Act 1999 and Food Act 2014.

The guide describes:

  • How shelf-life is defined
  • The causes of food deterioration and spoilage
  • Why food may become unsafe during storage
  • How to decide whether a ‘best-before’ or ‘use-by’ date mark is required
  • The information needed to work out what the shelf-life is
  • How to ensure the safety of chilled foods

The shelf-life of many foods can be extended using various means, including chilled storage. There are a small number of cold-tolerant bacteria that may continue to grow at chilled temperatures and are significant for food safety. Ready-to-eat foods are those foods where there is no further processing that will reduce or eliminate harmful microorganisms before consumption. The focus of the guidance document is therefore on determining the shelf-life of chilled ready-to-eat foods and the impact of cold-tolerant bacteria.

The document can be accessed via

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