Retailers could benefit from additional sales and reduced wastage if a new research project exploring chilled food shelf-life extension is successful.

The current shelf-life limit for the majority of chilled food is 10 days, but the Chilled Food Association (CFA) has just secured £750,000 to study the possibility of extending this period. The Sustainable Shelf Life Extension research programme will see if targeted, reduced-energy heat processes during manufacture can deliver a longer shelf life for cooked chilled products such as ready meals, fresh soups, pizzas and deli products.

Currently, chilled foods are heated for 10 minutes at 90 degrees Celcius in order to achieve a standard 10-day shelf-life. The new study will investigate whether similar levels of food safety protection can be achieved with less intense treatment, improving product quality as well as shelf-life.

The three-year project will be carried out at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich. The scheme will be funded jointly by CFA and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs LINK Food Manufacturing programme.