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Refrigerated Foods Association Announces Update of Shelf Life Protocol

Source: Refrigerated Foods Association Deli

The Refrigerated Foods Association (RFA) has announced the release of an updated Shelf Life Protocol, available now to both members and non-members. The RFA Standardized Protocol for Determining Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods was originally developed in 2002 and subsequently revised in 2009. The purpose of the standardized protocol was to enable individual manufacturers, and/or their customers if they so desired, to determine their product shelf life and compare their stated shelf life with the shelf life of similar products produced by other manufacturers. Many of the updates to the protocol came in response to an RFA survey of its members, conducted in 2019. RFA members indicated that they use the shelf life protocol for applications including new product development and for verification that shelf life and challenge study protocols are meeting industry standards. Members requested updated information on technologies including high pressure processing (HPP), the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and food safety assessment for Clostridium botulinum, Listeria, and Salmonella. Members also asked that examples of food products used in the protocol be expanded to include products in growth categories such as coleslaw, potato salad, dips and spreads (hummus, salsa), soups and chicken salad. Most RFA members were satisfied with the testing prescribed in the current protocol. Some respondents requested information on selection of natural and traditional antimicrobials, as well as updated FDA and USDA guidance. Based upon the RFA survey results, the updated protocol discusses additional foods of relevance (dips including hummus, salsa, tzatziki and guacamole) as well as processing technologies and ingredients that can improve product shelf life and safety. Due to important regulatory and technological changes adopted within the food industry, the RFA standardized protocol was also updated to address concerns regarding issues raised by FDA’s 2018 draft guidance for Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food, as well as guidance for the psychotropic pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in foods that do not support its growth. In addition, the protocol has been revised to include updated information regarding the growth and/or control of nonproteolytic C. botulinum type E strains in seafood and other refrigerated products. RFA’s Standardized Protocol for Determining the Shelf Life of Refrigerated Foods has stood the test of time and served its members well, and new updates will continue to provide members with relevant information so that advancements in technologies and ingredients can be evaluated with respect to refrigerated product shelf life improvements. The Standardized Protocol is one of the many ways in which the RFA helps its members navigate technical and regulatory issues to meet customer expectations and advance the refrigerated foods industry.