Additives that affect shelf life

Industrially manufactured foods must have longer shelf lives than normal home-made food. Before it finally makes it to the consumer's plate, the product may have spent several days travelling via distribution and the shop. For highly perishable products, ensuring that the cold chain remains intact is of essential importance from the perspective of preserving the product. 

In addition, shelf life can be improved by using substances that prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and mould. Using substances that improve shelf life can increase the time that a product can be preserved at home, particularly once the packaging has been opened. Preservatives are only used to guarantee product safety.

Sodium nitrite Sodium nitrite (E250) is used in meat products to improve shelf life. It works by preventing pathogens from growing. Additionally, sodium nitrite preserves the red colour of meat and prevents fatty acids from oxidising, thereby also having a positive effect on flavour and aroma. 

In the EU, a maximum daily amount of sodium nitrite has been specified: 150mg/kg. At Atria, we use approximately 100–120mg/kg.   

Acidity regulators Shelf life can also be increased by using acidity regulators (E270, E262), which control the pH of food. Microbial growth is prevented in acidic products (pH less than 4). These include acetic acid and related salts, as well as lactic acid. There are no maximum amounts specified for these additives.

Antioxidants Antioxidants (E300, E301, E330, E340, E315, E316) improve the shelf life of food by preventing spoiling due to oxidation, the process by which fats can become rancid. They also improve the preservation of fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E. 

The antioxidants most commonly used by Atria are ascorbic acid and citric acid. Both substances are naturally occurring but are chemically manufactured for use as additives. There are no maximum amounts specified for these additives in meat products.