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Shelf Life Determination


The acceptability, or shelf life, of a product is determined and limited by what are known as organoleptic properties: taste, texture, odor, and appearance.  Over time, these properties degrade, eventually to the point where the product is no longer desirable for human consumption.

Product degradation is caused by microbiological and/or chemical activity. We possess the knowledge, experience, and tools necessary to: design a shelf life study appropriate for your type of product; detect and track the abstract changes which occur during the degradation of your product in a well defined manner; interpret these quantitative results, and produce a final report with a statement as to the final recommended shelf life of your product.

We can conduct shelf life studies on any type of food product, from highly perishable products such as vegetables, fresh, refrigerated salsas, and oven-ready entrees, to shelf-stable, less perishable products such as jerky, dried grains, pet treats, and processed goods. Additionally we have experience performing and interpreting shelf life data no matter how your product is processed and no matter how your product is packaged.

Shelf life studies are complex in nature, and therefore are complex to design and conduct.  In order to get started on your products shelf life study, please complete our Request for a Shelf Life Study Design and Quote.

The form will take about 20 minutes to complete; please allow 2 to 3 business days for our response.

Shelf Life Testing FAQs

Shelf Life Testing FAQs

1. What is Shelf Life?

Shelf life in regards to products destined for human consumption is the length of time that product is acceptable for consumption based upon its organoleptic qualities, including taste, texture, odor, color, appearance, etc.  This length of times varies dramatically depending on the type, microbial, and chemical make up of your product.  Many fresh, perishable items are only good for days, while many shelf-stable items may be good beyond one year.

The organoleptic qualities of a product degrade over time.  Both microbiological and chemical phenomenon’s occurring in a product contribute to this degradation: the growth of microbiological populations which increase and metabolize available nutrients creates a multitude of bi-products, some of which are more offensive than others; oxidation of lipids, enzymatic degradation, non-enzymatic browning and other chemical reactions also contribute in various degrees, depending on the product, to a degradation of organoleptic quality.

Typically, but not always, degradation caused by microbiological activity takes precedence in perishable products requiring refrigeration which have a high nutrient content, high water activity, and a pH in the neutral range.

In order to keep microbial populations at bay and extend shelf life, producers may utilize various processing and/or ingredient alterations, such as cooking, pasteurizing, and/or high-pressure processing the product; by packaging the product in modified atmospheric packaging such as low-ox, high-ox, tri-gas, or vacuum packing; by acidifying the product with ingredients such as citric acid, thereby lowering the pH of the product, or by somehow reducing the available water in the product, perhaps through drying or replacing water with oil, to reduce the water activity of the product.

Typically, but not always, degradation caused by chemical activity takes precedence in these types of products which have undergone some processing and/or ingredient alterations.

2. What are Organoleptic Qualities & How do I use them to Determine Shelf Life?

The organoleptic qualities of a product destined for human consumption are elements of the product which are detected by our senses including taste, texture, odor, color, appearance, etc.

The organoleptic qualities of a edible product are the ultimate criteria used by producers and consumers to judge its acceptability.

As the previous question addressed, these qualities degrade over time due to the bi-products resulting from microbial and/or chemical activity.

This degradation occurs at different rates for different products and some bi-products are more offensive than others.

Additionally, customer opinion will vary some what in regards to degradation and shelf life end.

In order to protect and stand behind their own brand, it is important that producers conduct their own organoleptic assessments of any products they produce, independent of any shelf life study conducted by a laboratory.  Because producers have an intimate knowledge of their product, they are the most qualified in judging their products organoleptic qualities.

Taking laboratory data into account, a producer should determine at which point they deem the organoleptic properties of their product degrade beyond an acceptable level for their brand.

3. How is a Shelf Life Study Conducted?

Most shelf life studies, especially for perishable products, must be conducted in real time for accuracy.  For example, if you believe your products shelf life is about 60 days, we will analyze your product from the start of its shelf life to its expected end, accounting for 15% to 30% beyond its expected end.

For accurate and applicable shelf life study results, you must provide up to 8 (depending on the length of your study) individual containers of your product in its final, ready-to-sell form; variables such as ingredients, operational processing conditions, and final packaging containers should be representative of what you intend to use for real world product.


General Sample Submission FAQs

General Sample Submission FAQs

How do I get my results?

MBL delivers results via E mail in the form of a PDF Certificate of Analysis to the recipients designated in the Laboratory Deliverables section of the New Customer Package.
“MBL will only report to a third-party at the consent of Customer.”
“Upon request, results may also be delivered via fax or USPS mail, if this is your preferred method of delivery.”
“For multiple recipients of results, we recommend establishing an internal distribution list whereby you can define and maintain such recipients (i.e.”

How long do you keep my sample & can I have them back?

[table]”Sample Retention Times (after reporting results) are as listed in the table below.”
“Any repeat, additional, and/or confirmation analysis must be requested by the Customer within the retention time frame.”
“Repeat analysis performed at the Customers’ request will be charged to the Customer if the original results are confirmed.”
“To limit liability, samples submitted to MBL will not be returned to Customer because they have been stored in a facility which is known to have live pathogens.”

Sample Retention Times (After Reporting Results) are as Follows:

[table] Sample Type,Retention Time

Qualitative Microbiology,Negative Enrichments / Samples – Not Retained,

,Positive Enrichments / Samples – 24 Hours

Quantitative Microbiology,2 Business Days

Chemistry Analyses,2 Business Days

Other Analyses,2 Business Days [/table]

How long does it take to get results?

Specific turnaround times for each test can be found in our Test Library.

Our turnaround times are approximate, and do not include weekends or holidays for chemical and some microbiology analyses.

We will always try to begin analysis on the day we receive your samples.  However, samples submitted after 3pm may be held until the next day.

A 50% surcharge will be assessed for samples submitted after 3 pm requiring same day set up for microbiological analysis.

E. coli O157:H7 results are typically reported by 6:00am Tuesday through Friday, 7:00am on Saturday, 2:00pm on Sunday, and 10:00am on holidays.

Alternative terms regarding turnaround times may be arranged on a case-by-case basis.

What is the Sample Description?

This is assigned by You, the Customer, to identify the name of samples submitted to MBL, as indicated on the Sample Submission Form.

You should describe your sample in a way which makes sense to you and is meaningful now and later when referring to your records.

Describing samples in a like and similar manner each time you submit the same type of sample can help you later in comparing data from one lot to another.

General Methodology FAQs

Methodology FAQs

How much sample do you need for a test?

Typically, larger sample sizes equate to more representative results.

In general, most analyses require 100 grams to 500 grams of your product for an accurate test.

Each analysis is different, so please visit our Test Library for specific sample size requirements.

What Certifications do you maintain and where can I download them?

We maintain two Certifications (click on the image to download).

Please see our Accreditations Page for more information on our Certifications and our Commitment to Quality.

ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Certificate

Murray-Brown Laboratories ISO 17025 Certificate Exp 08-31-18

CDPHE Drinking Water Certificate

MBL State of Colorado Drinking Water Certificate 010117 to 123117

What matrices can you analyze?

We can handle a variety of matrices, including nearly all foods and food products, environmental samples, and dietary supplements.  Please inform us if you have any matrix concerns.

What methods will you use to analyze my sample?

Murray-Brown Labs’ ISO/IEC 17025:2005 Certificate itemizes all analyses/methods for which we are accredited.

Unless specified by the Customer in writing, we will select the method believed to be the most appropriate for analyzing samples based upon the information you provided.

We will notify you when a method you specify is believed to be inappropriate or out of date, and reserve the right to decline the use of such a method.

Cost & Payment FAQs

Terms & Conditions FAQs

What are your Payment Terms and what forms of payment do you accept?


Payment Terms and Conditions

“Samples are as submitted by Customer; MBL will not invoice a third party unless agreed upon by MBL, at MBLs’ sole discretion.”
“Customer must have a valid credit card on file with MBL; this card will be charged immediately upon completion of analyses (per project or weekly invoice as dictated by MBL), unless credit terms have been granted.  Customers scheduling $500 or more per week in MBL tests and services must apply for credit terms to pay by check or be must be approved by MBL to pay via credit card on file.”
“MBL may extend credit to Customer based upon the findings of a credit or other reference check, and/or the history with Customer and/or its representatives.  Customer granted credit agrees: payment terms are Net 15 days; MBL will charge credit card on file for overdue balances; a late charge of 1.5% per month will be added to all unpaid balances; all current and/or ongoing work will be halted for accounts overdue by 30 days and no additional work will be accepted until the balance is paid in full; accounts delinquent 90 days will be scheduled for collections; Customer is responsible for collection and/or legal fees MBL incurs as a result of securing payments for invoices which are in default.”
“MBL reserves the right to collect prepayment from Customer; costs of analyses are as defined via our Pricelist and/or Quotations.  Additional charges, as assessed by MBL and agreed upon by Customer, may be applied for: sample preparation; rush and/or weekend analyses; sample collection and/or pick-up; consulting; time required to complete above and beyond Customer requests.”


All Major Credit Cards Accepted

Credit Cards

What are your prices? Are there discounts for volume samples?

Please contact us for pricing including large volume discounts.

Sample Collection & Transportation FAQs

Sample Collection & Transportation FAQs

Do you offer sample pick up and how much does it cost?

Yes – Below you can find our sample pick up pricing, schedule, and fees.

Sample Pick Up is Free if:




Otherwise, Pick Up Fees are:

  Cost of testing is greater than or equal to $100; 24 hours notice is given;

  Pick up location is within 20 miles of MBL;

  Wait time for samples upon arriving at facility is less than 5 minutes.


$25 per pick up

(within 20 mile radius; plus $1 per mile over 20 miles; plus $1 per minute past 5 minute wait; plus $25 if less than $100)

When the Customer employs MBL to courier samples, MBL agree to do so in a manner which preserves the integrity of the sample(s).

Do you perform on-site sample collection?

Yes – Our trained staff is available to perform sampling at your or a third-party site.

Please contact us to discuss the price and availability of this service.

Sample collection by MBL on behalf of the Customer will take place according to an appropriate Sampling Plan, selected and/or designed by MBL, which will be available to the Customer for reference.  MBL is not responsible for alterations made by the Customer to the larger portion from which MBL collected samples after such sample collection occurred; such alterations may invalidate reported results.

When the Customer employs MBL to collect and/or courier samples, MBL agree to do so in a manner which preserves the integrity of the sample(s) and the larger portion from which it was collected.

We can also, if needed, assist in training your staff in proper sample collection techniques and procedures.

How do I collect a representative sample?

There is no short answer to this question and it is best to discuss this with any regulatory body that you are dealing with and any associated regulatory program by which your are governed.

We can provide guidance and assistance with most of the common regulatory requirements and associated sampling protocols.

MBL will provide a result which is representative of the sample submitted; it is the responsibility of the Customer to ensure that the sample submitted is representative of the larger portion from which it was collected.

How do I ship my sample to the laboratory?

Usually via overnight courier if refrigerated or frozen with enough coolant to maintain the proper temperature until receipt at our laboratory.

If you are uncertain about the details, please call us to discuss them.

How should I handle my sample before submitting it to the laboratory?

The integrity and representativeness of each sample must be maintained through delivery to the laboratory.

What type of container should I collect my sample in?

The appropriate container for each type of sample is included in our list of tests.  Please call to discuss any non-typical situations.