The amount of time for which a product can reasonably be stored without contamination
The time varies considerably based not only on organic content, but on packaging, the interaction of organic content with the packaging (such as acidic fruits or vegetables reacting with a tin can), as well as storage conditions . Exposure to oxygen, mositure, and/or heat will considerably shorten shelf life.
Sample shelf lives of various products, under ideal conditions:
Fresh onions: 6 months
Canned tuna: 12 months
Dried soy beans: 12 months
Canned pears/peaches: 24 months
Pasta: 24 months
Whole Wheat: 48 months
U.S. Military MRE: 5-7 years
Note that a date stamped upon a package by the manufacturer
is mainly for the manufacturer's and the retailer's benefit: it notes that the product will maintain its freshness and nutrition
up to that point: the product may still be edible
beyond that point (under ideal storage conditions).