There are many different types of cheese products available in the market. The shelf life of these products varies from a few months to a few years. This depends on the packaging, on the type of cheese, and on the composition of the cheese. Typically, cheese products that have high moisture content have a shorter shelf life as compared to cheese products with less moisture content. This blog will tell you How to extend the shelf life of cheese products.
Mostly, dry cheese products have a longer shelf life and can thus survive on their own without a lot of effort made of their packaging. There are several methods that can be used for the extension of the shelf life of cheese products with a shorter shelf life. The main reason why these products have a shorter shelf life is because of microbial growth and the decline of texture and flavor with time.
Yeast and mold are the kinds of microbes that damage the cheese with moisture content and make them non-consumable after a short while. This can be reduced and even prevented depending on the type of cheese packaging used. The sanitation practices engaged in during packaging allow for the inhibition of both mold and yeast. To stop microbial growth, the methods employed while packaging of cheese products include removing oxygen from the packet, vacuum packaging, and modified atmosphere packaging. Natamycin is also used in preventing the growth of yeast and mold in cheese. Instead of adding artificial preservatives, the packaging is also done via high-pressure processing, pulsed light treatment, or by adding natural preservatives.
Bad Texture and Flavor
Cheese products that are more moist tend to go softer with time which damages their textures and also impacts their flavor. Some improvements can be made in the production process to prevent this, like reducing the quantity of proteolytic rennets, processing at higher temperatures for curd-stretching, and storing the finished product at lower temperatures. Flavor can be enhanced by the use of quality milk and other starter products. Compromising the quality of constituents greatly impacts the quality of the end product.
These issues are widespread, and that is why new technology is constantly being developed to prevent the microbial growth in cheese products and the prevalence of bad texture and flavor during the production process. But as mentioned above, there are numerous ways in which these issues can be successfully tackled, and the shelf life of cheese products can be significantly increased. Some of the ways through which this can be done are as follows:
1. Using Edible Coatings
Edible coatings involve additives and edible biopolymers. Edible films are formed when additives and plasticizers are combined to enhance the physical properties of an edible film. This can then protect the cheese products from chemical, physical, and biological deterrents. This also helps prevent the oxidation, microbial growth on the surface, and the loss of moisture from the cheese product.
2. Using Active Coatings
Active coatings include processes that either absorb oxygen, carbon dioxide, ethylene, moisture, or flavors; or release carbon dioxide, antioxidants, flavors, and antimicrobial agents. The ways in which this is done are as follows:
- Sachets: When sachets are introduced, several volatile antimicrobials agents are released into the product, which comes in contact with pathogenic bacteria and impacts their growth.
- In the packaging polymer: Antimicrobial agents can be dispersed in the packaging polymer through a heat press, but this can cause many agents to be rendered inactive because of the heat. Heat-resistant antimicrobials are best suited for this process.
- Coating or dipping.
3. Modified Atmosphere Packaging or MAP
Packaging of cheese products involves taking care of the reduction of undesirable bacteria and locking in the natural moisture present in the cheese product. For protection against dehydration, the following films are used:
- semi-barrier films, which include low-density polyethylene or polypropylene
- barrier films like high-density polyethylene, aluminum, polyvinyl chloride, polyvinylidene chloride, and orientated polypropylene
When it comes to modified atmosphere packaging, different types of gases are used for different types of cheese. For example, packaging in hundred percent of nitrogen of carbon dioxide made for hard or semi-hard cheese like Cheddar, Samso, and Parmigiano Reggiano respond poorly. Reducing the percentage of carbon dioxide during packaging gave better results and successfully inhibited microbial growth. While hard cheeses require low carbon dioxide concentration, moist cheese can be packed in up to seventy-five percent carbon dioxide.
4. Adding Preservatives
Preservatives have been added to cheese products for a very long time. Preservatives have been widespread simply because it does not impact the nutritional value of the original cheese product and protects the product physically and chemically. Microbial growth is also prevented by preservatives. The following preservatives are used for the extension of the shelf life of cheese products:
- Sorbic acid is not as effective as benzoate.
- Sodium benzoate with benzoic acid and hydrogen peroxide
- Natamisin is a fungicide.
- Green pepper adds to flavor, texture, and formation. Free fatty acids were highest in cheese treated with green pepper.
- Nisin, a bacteriocin, protects against gram-positive bacteria.
- Chitosan is an antimicrobial agent that is eco-friendly and is also widely available due to being inexpensive.
5. High Pressure Processing or HPP
High pressure processing is widely used in the food industry as it extends the shelf life of multiple edible products. HPP is also widely used for the reduction of microbial growth. The purpose of packaging cheese products in high pressure proves effective because the parasites, fungi, and other microbes are rendered inactive. Flavor molecules that are relatively smaller in size remain unaffected by high pressure, which is why the flavor is locked, and the harmful microbes are reduced.
Cheese products are consumed all around the world because of their taste and nutritional value. With different varieties, the method of preservation of these products and their shelf lives vary significantly. The shelf life of cheese products has seen major extension in recent years with the advent of technology. While the shelf lives can be extended by various methods, the cheese should not be consumed beyond its consume by date.