New Ready to Eat Foods Shelf Life Guidance (22 March 2010)

free guidance document to help food businesses of all sizes determine the shelf life of ready to eat foods has been published by CFA and the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The Shelf life Of Ready To Eat Food In Relation to L. monocytogenes – Guidance For Food Business Operators (the Shelf Life Guidance) is designed to help businesses from small food outlets to major food manufacturers calculate an accurate time period for people to eat food and minimise the risk of illness. The Guidance is also designed to help firms meet European Union microbiology rules – in particular Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005. This sets limits on micro-organisms, such as listeria, in food.

Complex issues are explained in an easy to understand manner for staff at all levels of expertise. Real life worked examples are provided to show how the advice should be put into practice.

The guidance was developed by a coalition of organisations chaired by the BRC, including the CFA, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, LACORS, the Health Protection Agency and the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Kaarin Goodburn, Secretary General of the Chilled Food Association, which led food manufacturing sector input said: “We are pleased that such a wide range of organisations participated in developing the Guidance. We hope it will provide vital information on how to set shelf life, what the key pre-requisites are for making ready to eat food, and the basic principles of what to look for when selecting ready to eat ingredients.”

Sally Barber, British Retail Consortium Food Policy Executive, said: “Setting the right shelf-life is essential for food safety. The Guidance will help businesses of all sizes to calculate the correct food shelf-life for their products and to meet European microbiology regulations. It’s a free publication, with easy to use explanations and common everyday examples.“

Jenny Morris, Food Policy Officer at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said “CIEH welcomes the Guidance, as setting shelf life limits can be complex. We believe that this Guidance will assist all food businesses, large or small, and will also be of considerable use to food law enforcers”.

Liz Redmond, Head of Hygiene and Microbiology at the Food Standards Agency said “People need confidence in the safety of the food they buy; this guidance adds to the good work already being done by the food industry, CIEH and the FSA to achieve this. I hope businesses and enforcement officers will find this a useful addition to the range of food safety information available to them.”

Free Downloads

The Guidance is available as a free download here.

Worked examples are also available demonstrating the process, as set out in the Guidance, of determining shelf life regarding L. monocytogenes for specific products. This includes the considerations of ingredients, manufacturing environment and data to support (or otherwise) the assigned shelf life.

The data required to support the shelf life is required to be documented, but it is not a requirement for it to be held in the detailed format as set out in the worked examples.

Worked examples available :

  • New Product – Cold Smoked Salmon and Fresh Watercress Sandwich –Technical
  • New Product – Cold Smoked Salmon and Fresh Watercress Sandwich – Simplified
  • Justifying the shelf life of an existing product – Cold Smoked Salmon and Fresh Watercress Sandwich
  • Altering an Existing Recipe – Brie with Garlic and Herbs – Technical
  • Altering an Existing Recipe – Brie with Garlic and Herbs – Simplified

Dr Paul Neaves of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association led the development of the brie examples.

Mr Bob Salmon of Food Solutions led the development of the simplified examples.