What is Non-Perishable Food? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Different kinds of food spoil at different rates. In this lesson, we are going to examine non-perishable food, look at some common examples and learn the best way to store these items.

How Long Will Food Last?

What is your favorite food? Is it a single item, or a dish made by compiling many ingredients? Whatever it is, your favorite food is something that you enjoy for its taste, smell, or even texture. But if not stored properly, all of those could change. Even worse, it could make you ill.

Over time, bacteria grow on food that either decompose it and change the taste, color, and smell (called spoilage bacteria) or create foodborne illnesses (called pathogen bacteria). The key to reducing the rate of these bacteria and prolonging the time you can enjoy your food before it goes bad is knowing what kind of food it is, in terms of spoilage. There are three main categories: perishable foods that spoil very quickly and require immediate refrigeration, semi-perishable foods that take longer to spoil and may not need refrigeration, and non-perishable foods, those that you can keep with you for quite a while.

Defining Non-Perishable Foods

Off the bat, we have to acknowledge that the term ''non-perishable food'' is something of a misnomer. Most food is not truly exempt from spoilage and will decay to the point of being unsafe and/or unpalatable over time. However, non-perishable foods are those that are most resistant to this process. In fact, most non-perishable foods will last for a year or longer. What's even better is that they do not require refrigeration in order to sustain this long shelf life.


Of course, non-perishable foods will last longer if they are stored properly. This is the key to maximizing your non-perishable foods and preventing food loss and waste.

Proper storage can keep non-perishable food good even longer
food storage

In order to keep non-perishable foods good for as long as possible, store them in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated space. Humid, warm, and stagnant air encourages bacteria, so you want to avoid this. Also, light can increase the deterioration of food (especially in terms of taste and color), so darker storage rooms are also better for long-term viability. Finally, don't forget that the shelf life of many products will change once that product has been opened. Many non-perishable items are still good for quite a while even after opened, but the exposure to air after being sealed will increase the rate of decay no matter what.

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