VACUUM SEALED FOOD SHELF LIFE CHART

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Vacuum sealed food shelf life chart

The extended exposure of foods to oxygen may often cause changes and compromise safety. Several foodborne pathogens, such as spoilage bacteria and molds, require oxygen to spoil foods. As such, a food industry solution is to remove oxygen upon packaging foods through vacuum sealing. Vacuum-sealed foods have a significantly longer shelf life than those stored in airtight containers. The absence of oxygen removes the likelihood of spoilage from oxidation and the effects of aerobic pathogens. Use a Vacuum Sealed Food Shelf Life Chart to guide food handlers on the recommended shelf life of vacuum-sealed foods.

Vacuum sealing foods can extend the shelf life of your food products up to five times longer. This preservation method is a great addition to your usual refrigeration and freezing operations. This operation is great for long-term food storage as it preserves the product quality while limiting the potential growth of microorganisms. Although your foods may last for a longer storage time, the effects of vacuum packing process is not necessarily absolute. This means that foods will still spoil or change in characteristics after a long while.

Learn how can vacuum-sealing foods help you manage your operations and how you can help your team remember important information such as the altered use-by dates of vacuum-sealed foods.

 

What is vacuum sealed food?

Vacuum-sealed foods refer to products or raw materials enclosed in a shrink film where oxygen is evacuated from the system. Vacuum sealing, otherwise known as reduced oxygen packaging, is the process of removing oxygen in a container to prevent the effects of oxygen from affecting the product and eliminate the likelihood of the growth of aerobic bacteria. Sometimes, the process is augmented with an oxygen absorber packet for more efficiency before passing through a vacuum packing machine.

Vacuum-sealed foods also stay fresh longer as the volatile flavors of the ingredients stay in the food and are unaffected by oxidation and other chemical reactions that require oxygen. For meat products, removing oxygen will turn the raw meat into a deep purple-red color and stay the same until opened. 

Vacuum packaging also helps food handlers store foods in terms of space. Vacuum-packed foods are less bulky and can be easily transported from one place to another. You can store vacuum-packed food in bulk more efficiently.

One of the main objectives of vacuum sealing is to prevent the growth of bacteria that require oxygen for growth, otherwise called aerobic bacteria. This objective can help significantly prolong the shelf life of vacuum-packed products for a significantly extended period by limiting the biological processes of bacteria.

Employing a vacuum-packaging operation in your food business for commercial products may require a HACCP plan for food safety compliance.

 

Why do you need a Vacuum Sealed Food Shelf Life Chart?

A vacuum sealed food shelf life chart can help guide food handlers with the shelf life expectancy of vacuum-sealed foods. Although vacuum sealing prolongs the shelf life of foods, your vacuum-sealed products may still spoil or deteriorate in time. The effects of vacuum sealing differ for every type of food.

For example, storing fresh meat such as ground beef at refrigerated temperatures may stay fresh for 2 to 3 days. When vacuum-packed and refrigerated, fresh meat can last up to 10 days. On the other hand, lettuce can only stay 6 to 8 days fresh, even when vacuum-packed and refrigerated.2

While vacuum-sealing food is very helpful, food handlers must still be oriented about how long would the storage life expectancy of the food would be.

A vacuum sealed food storage life chart shows foods' regular food storage shelf life and shelf life when vacuum packed. This chart can be used as a reference for labeling vacuum-sealed foods for their use-by date. 

how long does vacuum sealed food last at room temperature

Who needs a Vacuum Sealed Food Shelf Life Chart?

Food businesses such as meal delivery services, food retailers, spice suppliers, and grocery stores that deliver vacuum-sealed foods can benefit from a vacuum sealed food shelf life chart. If your food business applies vacuum packing for food preservation or packaging foods, you will need a reference for labeling your products. Because of the diversity of effects of vacuum packing, it is hard to memorize every shelf life expectancy of foods.

Food businesses delivering foods in vacuum-sealed packs will benefit most from this chart. The information from this chart can also be used to accurately guide consumers who will receive the vacuum-packed products.

 

What are the most important things to remember when dealing with food vacuum sealing?

Vacuum sealing is a packaging method that can only be effective in prolonging shelf life of food if the materials are prepared hygienically. Proper food handling practices and strict food safety standards must be applied. The effectiveness of vacuum food sealers in preserving foods is only as good as how the raw materials are prepared

If unsanitary conditions were present during vacuum sealing, the likelihood of anaerobic bacteria could significantly increase. These pathogens can only grow in the absence of oxygen.

 

To help create a conducive environment for a successful vacuum sealing, follow these guidelines:

  • Always use fresh raw ingredients in preparing foods for vacuum sealing.
  • Clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces and utensils in a restaurant kitchen.
  • Employees must practice strict personal hygiene (e.g., proper handwashing practices, not attending when sick).
  • Prevent cross-contamination between food handlers and food being vacuum-packed.
  • Employees must be well-trained in operating the vacuum sealing machine to ensure effective sealing.
  • Always label foods with a use-by date before refrigerating or freezing.
  • Only use the recommended amounts of food for every vacuum sealing batch. Overfilling may make the process ineffective. 
  • If using reusable aseptic packages, always ensure they are sanitized before using them again.
  • Use sturdy bags designed for vacuum sealing. Punctures on the bag will allow oxygen to enter.
  • Refrigerate or freeze vacuum-sealed foods.

It is very important for food safety practices to be applied when performing vacuum sealing to make the food shelf stable. Failure to create a clean environment during food handling can attract contaminants and compromise the target shelf life of products.

Remember to use a Vacuum Sealed Food Shelf Life Chart to guide food handlers on the recommended shelf life of vacuum-sealed products. Place the chart in a visible area, preferably near the vacuum sealer, to remind them of the important shelf life information.

In addition, vacuum-sealed products must be properly kept under the safe temperature. Even when vacuum sealed, foods can spoil very fast if stored under ambient temperature or in the temperature danger zone. Instruct food handlers to keep them in refrigerated or freezing conditions and regularly monitor proper temperature for maintenance. Use a temperature log sheet for this operation. 

You can find more useful food safety documents such as checklists, monitoring templates, and posters from our HACCP plan template hub.

 

What can go wrong when vacuum sealing?

Vacuum sealing is very effective food preservation and storage method. To ensure the effectiveness of the process and maintain the safety of your food items, food handlers must be aware of particular guidelines in vacuum sealing and prevent spoilage or the potential risk of food poisoning.

Circumstances such as poor food handling or food hygiene can lead to food spoilage during vacuum packaging. Anaerobic bacteria, or bacteria that grow in the absence of oxygen, can grow on contaminated, moist products that were vacuum sealed. Such bacteria can contaminate food items through cross-contamination before vacuum sealing.

Dangerous microbial growth, such as the growth of Clostridium botulinum can form under vacuum conditions. The National Center for Food Preservation posted guidelines and warnings on food safety issues and concerns that can occur during vacuum sealing. 

Pinholes on the food packaging or incomplete vacuum sealing can also promote contamination.

Which foods can you not vacuum seal?

Which foods can you not vacuum seal?

Although there are many benefits to vacuum sealing, some foods cannot be vacuum sealed raw. Foods such as raw meat, cooked meat, pasta, white rice, herbs, fresh green beans, and dehydrated vegetables and fruits. On the contrary, you cannot seal types of food such as the following:

  • Garlic
  • Freshly cooked low-acid vegetables
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Arugula
  • Turnips
  • Soft cheese

Some foods, such as broccoli and foods under the same family (Cruciferae or Brassicaceae), naturally produce gas. Once the gas is produced, this will jeopardize the integrity of the plastic container or vacuum packaging. However, they can be vacuum-packed once blanched and/or augmented with oxygen absorbers for food storage.

In the case of unpasteurized fermented products such as soft cheeses, mold production to unsafe levels can significantly increase under vacuum conditions. 

 

Need more information regarding vacuum sealing? Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding this topic:

How long can you keep vacuum-sealed food?

The expected shelf life of vacuum-sealed food will depend on the nature of the food product and food storage temperature. On average, a vacuum-sealed product under freezing conditions can last up to 5-6 months or even 1-2 years, depending on your freezer capacity. On the other hand, refrigerated vacuum-sealed products can last up to 1 to 2 weeks.

What foods can you vacuum seal for long-term storage?

Shelf-stable and dry foods such as pasta, cereals, granulated sugar, dehydrated foods, white flour, ground coffee, and grains can be stored for even longer periods of time when vacuum-packed. This process can be used to preserve seasonal and perishable food for storage or serve as an emergency supply of food.

Does vacuum sealing extend shelf life?

On average, the process of vacuum sealing extends the shelf life of fresh food up to 3 to 5 times longer than a normal storage container. The length of shelf life may vary depending on the type of food, packaging used, and the final storage conditions. 

How long is vacuum-sealed meat good for in the fridge?

The normal 3 to 5 days of maximum storage life of raw meat can be extended up to 10 days when vacuum sealed and stored in the refrigerator. In freezing conditions, meat can stay fresh for up to 6 months when vacuum packed.

How long does vacuum sealed food last at room temperature?

Vacuum sealing does not remove the potentially present harmful bacteria in food; therefore, vacuum-sealed foods can only stay at room temperature for a maximum of 2 hours. 

FoodDocs food safety system-1

How can you help your team ensure correct vacuum sealing?

Vacuum sealing is an operation that requires knowledge of food safety. Food handlers must be aware of the required conditions to make this operation successful. Vacuum sealing and the resulting shelf life of processed foods can be overwhelming for some food handlers as the information varies based on different factors. In addition to a vacuum Sealed Food Shelf Life Chart, use a regular Food Storage Chart to help food handlers understand how vacuum sealing helps preserve food.

To help your employees, provide them with a Vacuum sealed food shelf life chart as a reference for correct use-by-date labeling. The next thing you need is to determine a way how to remind food handlers regarding the maximum shelf life of vacuum-sealed foods once they are stored in the fridge or freezer. Additionally, you also need a more efficient way to ensure the correct storage conditions for these products. A simple chart cannot help you with this task.

At FoodDocs, we have the best digital solution for your vacuum-packaging woes. We offer digital solutions that can help you remind your team about food safety tasks such as temperature monitoring tasks to ensure that you will only be using and serving food fresh all the time.

 

Particularly, our digital solution can help you with the following benefits:

  • Our notification system can also send alerts for food safety tasks such as temperature monitoring of freezers and fridges. All temperature monitoring tasks can be done on time with this feature.

  • Save time from filling repetitive temperature monitoring forms as our automatically generated forms are equipped with an auto-fill solution. Your employees would only need to verify the information.

  • Our digital monitoring logs also include informative and well-designed instructions that will help you train employees on how to correctly monitor temperature.

Temperature log instruction

Temperature log sheet with instructions for your team

 

In addition to digital solutions for everyday monitoring tasks of employees, our digital Food Safety Management System can also help managers save time.

  • Switching to our digital Food Safety Management System only takes an average of 15 minutes. At this time, our system can automatically generate a comprehensive and customizable FSMS for you.
  • You can save at least 20% of your time managing your operations with a real-time dashboard from our digital solution. You can always stay up to date with your food safety tasks and remotely monitor areas that need more attention.
  • You can also get digital cloud storage to help you manage, store, and easily access all digital documents. 

While technical operations such as vacuum sealing can be challenging for some, you can help your team manage this operation with our help. Using our digital FSMS, compliance with food safety regulations on vacuum sealing can be achieved easier.

Maintain compliance and become more sustainable as you switch to our digital platform in just an average of 15 minutes. Experience an effortless food safety compliance with our help and protect your consumers from potential food safety issues.

You can experience our digital solution firsthand when you use our free, 14-day trial.

fooddocs food safety documents

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