Shelf Life

Long-ripened dry sausages are stable from the microbiological point of view because of their low water activity. Nevertheless, if further drying and influence of oxygen are not inhibited, sensory quality is lowered. Vacuum or modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) with high barrier films could extend the shelf life because moisture does not evaporate, and in the absence of oxygen, rancidity is significantly retarded. Although vacuum packaging or MAP is a perfect solution for extending the shelf life of dry sausages without mold, mold-ripened sausages cannot be vacuum packaged, and MAP is not an ideal choice either for longer storage. The problem in both cases is that moisture cannot evaporate from the surface, making it wet; thus, mold loosens and comes off, giving the product a bad appearance. For shorter storage, either wrapping in cellophane or perforated polypropylene (in order that moisture evaporates) can be used, with awareness that weight loss may occur even if reduced; or MAP may be used, in which case weight loss is avoided but saturated humidity does not favor the mold layer, as mentioned above. For this reason, mold-ripened sausages are more affected by storage conditions than sausages that can be packaged in impermeable films; yet mold layer protecting against moisture loss and oxidation (light) ensures a long shelf life for these high-value meat products, supported also by the advantageous effect of smoking, even if they are packaged in moisture-permeable films. Evidently if dry sausage is sliced after peeling off, it can be either vacuum packaged or MAP applied and a long shelf life can be guaranted. Because of less residual oxygen in MAP, less oxydation effect was detected than in vacuum packaging (45).

As already mentioned, long-ripened dry sausages are stable and safe without refrigeration, and cold storage is rather disadvantageous because phosphate crystals can appear on the product. This can be the case even if no phosphate was added: muscle tissues' own phosphate is sufficient for causing this phenomenon, supported by decreasing solubility of phosphate at low aw and higher pH.

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