New Shelf Life Determination Guidelines

September 05, 2014 at 10:04 AM

On 27th August 2014 the revised and updated MPI food industry guidance document How to Determine the Shelf Life of Food was published.  The guidance document and accompanying memo is available from the MPI website at  

The updated guidance document is intended to help  food operators who process, prepare and handle food to determine the shelf life, in particular chilled ready-to-eat foods, and to apply appropriate date marking.

This document updates and replaces the 2005 Information Booklet for the Food Industry – A Guide to Calculating Shelf Life of Foods ( and reflects the recent revision of the Food Standards Code, Standard 1.6.1 – Microbiological Limits for Food.

The Schedule to Standard 1.6.1 – Microbiological Limits in Food specifies end point microbiological limits (i.e. measured at the end of a product’s shelf life) for L. monocytogenes in all types of RTE foods based on whether growth of the microorganism can occur.

This amendment takes effect on 18th September 2014 in New Zealand, which means that from this date processors of any RTE foods to which Standard 1.6.1 applies must comply.






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Ready-to-eat food in which growth of Listeria monocytogenes will not occur

Listeria monocytogenes



100 cfu/g


Ready-to-eat food in which the growth of Listeria monocytogenes can occur

Listeria monocytogenes



Not detected in 25g


It is expected that most operators will continue to apply the limit of L. monocytogenes not detected in 25g when testing product regardless of the changes in Standard 1.6.1 . This is because it can be difficult to confirm that growth will not occur and when testing product, finding any L. monocytogenes may indicate that the process or product controls have not been fully effective.

MPI is preparing factsheets that should provide further information for food operators and these are expected to be available shortly.  In the meantime, FSANZ has prepared a guidance document “Guidance on the application of microbiological criteria for Listeria monocytogenes in RTE food”‚Äč that can be used to help interpret and apply the micro limits for L. monocytogenes in RTE foods. A copy of the FSANZ factsheet can be found at:

Tags: shelf life determination Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat foods
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