Why do perishable foods run out quickly

1.3 Shelf life of perishable foods

Food is easily perishable if, due to its ingredients and its composition, it enables a rapid proliferation of pathogens or spoilage pathogens that may be present on the surface or inside the food. Such germs can multiply on a massive scale without any visible change in the food. In order to maintain the marketability of this food for a limited period of time, it is therefore necessary to keep it refrigerated and to be particularly hygienic when handling it. The cooling temperature influences the shelf life of the product. For this reason, the manufacturer must indicate the appropriate cooling temperature in addition to the best before or use-by date. By keeping it cool, a contribution can be made to avoiding food waste. Recommendations for storage temperatures of perishable food => Section 1.4.3.3, Table 1.
In the event of insufficient cooling, germs can multiply in or on perishable food during storage. Consumption can then lead to infections, poisoning or other health disorders. The living germs can be killed by heating, but toxic or other harmful substances that have already been formed by the germs cannot be sufficiently destroyed by heating (=> Section 1.5.1.1).

1.3.1 Multiplication of microorganisms

Figure 11: Multiplication of pathogens under favorable conditions

Figure 12: Influence of temperature on the multiplication of germs.

In and on perishable raw materials for foodstuffs, spoilage pathogens and germs can be present which, under favorable growth conditions, multiply until the food is consumed and have a negative effect on the product5. Adverse influence means any negative change in the food up to a health risk for the consumer due to pathogens.

1.3.1.1 General information on shelf life

Easily perishable products must be checked to ensure that they are in perfect hygienic condition before use. The best before date (BBD) of a food is the date until which this food retains its specific properties if stored correctly. It is determined by the manufacturing company. However, many foods can also be consumed when the best-before date has expired. Then pay attention to the following:

  • No abnormalities when checking the appearance, the color and the smell
  • The period of exceeding the best-before date is short in relation to the total shelf life and the cold chain has not been interrupted

In order to avoid food waste, products whose best-before date is about to expire can be passed on to third parties (e.g. the food banks), who can often consume them in good time before their best-before date.

However, if products are provided with a use-by date, their use beyond this date is prohibited. We recommend checking immediately upon delivery of the goods in order to be able to take suitable measures: either refusal of acceptance or bringing forward processing. Otherwise the goods must be disposed of. This creates an avoidable amount of food waste and means wasting valuable resources.

If the cooling temperature specified by the manufacturer is not adhered to, the goods must be disposed of or - in the case of minor or short-term deviations after at least a sensory test - further processing into heated products must take place within a shorter period.

Perishable food must be handled and processed as quickly as possible if it is not sufficiently cooled during this time. The products must then be brought to the required cooling temperature (=> e.g. Section 1.4.3.3) without delay.

In the production of composite, easily perishable dishes such as B. Potato salad or pasta salad, the ingredients must be cooled before mixing (=> Figure 33). The intermediate cooling prevents the mass reproduction of undesirable germs during production.


1.3.1.2 Shelf life of self-produced food

Self-produced, easily perishable food may only be stored for a limited period of time and sufficiently refrigerated (=> Section 1.4.3.3). Before handing them over to the customer, all parts of these products must be heated quickly to 72 ° C for at least two minutes. The success of the heating can be checked by means of a cooking test.


1.3.1.3 Freezing fresh products and prepared meals

Fresh raw materials or freshly prepared ready-to-eat products or finished products can be frozen and stored in hygienic packaging in suitable freezers or devices to extend the shelf life. The packs should be closed on all sides. Minced meat products such as B. meatballs should be cooked through before freezing.

The date of freezing or the date of use must be clearly visible on the packaging. The shelf life and the quality of the frozen food depend crucially on the hygiene and quality of the raw materials before freezing and the way they are packaged. A storage period of more than 2 months should be avoided for reasons of quality.


5The microbiological criteria for various germs in certain foods according to Regulation (EC) No. 2073/2005 must be complied with.