Institutions should urge feed vendors to periodically provide data from laboratory-based feed analyses for critical nutrients. The user should know the date of manufacture and other factors that affect the food’s shelf life. Stale food or food transported and stored inappropriately can become deficient in nutrients. Upon receipt, bags of feed should be examined to ensure that they are intact and unstained to help ensure that their contents have not been potentially exposed to vermin, penetrated by liquids, or contaminated. Careful attention should be paid to quantities received in each shipment, and stock should be rotated so that the oldest food is used first.
Areas in which diets and diet ingredients are processed or stored should be kept clean and enclosed to prevent the entry of pests. Food stocks should be stored off the floor on pallets, racks, or carts in a manner that facilitates sanitation. Opened bags of food should be stored in vermin-proof containers to minimize contamination and to avoid the potential spread of pathogens. Exposure to elevated storage room temperatures, extremes in relative humidity, unsanitary conditions, and insects and other vermin hastens food deterioration. Storage of natural-ingredient diets at less than 21°C (70°F) and below 50% relative humidity is recommended. Precautions should be taken if perishable items—such as meats, fruits, and vegetables and some specialty diets (e.g., select medicated or high-fat diets)—are fed, because storage conditions may lead to variation in food quality.
Most natural-ingredient, dry laboratory animal diets stored properly can be used up to 6 months after manufacture. Nonstabilized vitamin C in manufactured feeds generally has a shelf life of only 3 months, but commonly used stabilized forms can extend the shelf life of feed. Refrigeration preserves nutritional quality and lengthens shelf life, but food storage time should be reduced to the lowest practical period and the manufacturers’ recommendations considered. Purified and chemically defined diets are often less stable than natural-ingredient diets and their shelf life is usually less than 6 months (Fullerton et al. 1982); they should be stored at 4°C (39°F) or lower.
Irradiated and fortified autoclavable diets are commercially available and are commonly used for axenic and microbiologically defined rodents, and immunodeficient animals (NRC 1996). The use of commercially fortified autoclavable diets ensures that labile vitamin content is not compromised by steam and/or heat (Caulfield et al. 2008; NRC 1996). But consideration should be given to the impact of autoclaving on pellets as it may affect their hardness and thus palatability and also lead to chemical alteration of ingredients (Thigpen et al. 2004; Twaddle et al. 2004). The date of sterilization should be recorded and the diet used quickly.
Feeders should be designed and placed to allow easy access to food and to minimize contamination with urine and feces, and maintained in good condition. When animals are housed in groups, there should be enough space and enough feeding points to minimize competition for food and