Another major cause of food deterioration is that of time or the aging process.

a. Peak Time for Quality. After slaughter, harvest, or food manufacture, there is a time when the quality of food is at its peak, but this is only a transitory period. The growth of microorganisms, destruction by insects, action of food enzymes, nonenzymatic interaction of food constituents, loss of flavor, effects of heat, cold, moisture, oxygen, and light, all progress with time. The longer the time, the greater the destructive influences.

b. The Goal of Maintaining Freshness. It is true that certain cheeses, sausages, wines, and other fermented foods are improved with aging up to a point. However, for the vast majority of foods, quality decreases with time, and the major goal of food handling and preservation practices is to capture and maintain freshness.

c. Storage Life. Time is considered an important cause of food deterioration, for all foods have a definite storage life. The storage life is determined to a great extent by type of food, method of processing, method of packaging, and storage environment. However, the longer a food is stored, the greater is the opportunity for deteriorative changes to occur. This is the rationale behind the frequencies of cyclic inspections of food items.

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