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6 Food Storage Factors We Can Control & 1 We Can’t

By Denis Korn

Gourmet Reserves SuperPak

Once again we will cover the important factors required for ensuring the optimal quality of foods that are being stored for extended periods of time.  While the emphasis in this article is directed to freeze-dried, dehydrated, low-moisture and basic commodities, the best conditions for food storage applies to all food products.

NOTE:  The six conditions listed are chosen because these are factors in which we have the control to optimize for the longest reliable shelf life.  TIME is the one factor that we can not control – and it does have a significant effect on the shelf life of various foods.  Nutritional value is lost with many foods over time.  To know with certainty the viable nutritional value of all food reserve items at any given time after a lengthy period of storage – is at best complex or most likely mere conjecture and guesswork.  What we can do is to apply proper planning procedures – do your research with trusted resources, rotate and consume your storage foods, sample the foods every now and then and be realistic about how long you will really need to rely on the foods you choose to store.

SUGGESTION:  Store foods you and your children would enjoy eating – don’t go for the justification that some unethical food companies will tell you that “it is for emergencies – better the starving.”  Read the ingredient and nutritional information – know the REAL calories per day you are buying – do you want cook or no cook foods – more and more new “food storage” companies are primarily marketing companies and their foods are mediocre, use low quality components and are filled with artificial ingredients.  In my opinion many of these available food storage products are not nutritionally adequate for consumption during a prolonged emergency.

Do you really believe all the hype and superlatives many of these new companies use in their advertising?  Do you ever wonder how new companies can make exaggerated shelf life claims for products in plastic pouches?  Do you really believe that all the talk show hosts and popular web site spokesman know anything about the foods they promote?  Are advertising dollars more important than food quality?

THE 6 FACTORS:

  • Temperature– This is the primary factor affecting the storage life of foods.  The cooler the better. 40 degrees-50 degrees would be great. Room temperature (65 degrees-72 degrees) or below is generally fine.  Avoid above 90 degrees for extended periods of time. The longer food is exposed to very high temperatures the shorter the edible life and the faster the degeneration of nutritional value.  Note:  There are some “foods” available for emergency preparedness that are known as “emergency food or ration bars.”  These products are generally referred to as “life raft bars” because they were originally designed for life rafts and can withstand high heat for extended periods of time.  They primarily consist of white sugar and white flour, and were not meant to be the sole source of nutrition for a long period of time.
  • Moisture– The lower the better.  Moisture can deteriorate food value rapidly and create conditions that promote the growth of harmful organisms.  The moisture level contained in foods varies depending on the type of product it is.  Have foods in moisture barrier containers (metal, glass) in high humidity areas. Note:  Mylar bags or plastic buckets are not a long term (over 3 years) moisture or oxygen barrier. The moisture and gas transmission rates through these materials vary depending upon the specifications of the manufacturers.  Plastic absorbs gases, moisture, and odors.  Note:  Be careful where you store dry foods in cans.  Very cold flooring or any condition where there is a dramatic temperature differential may cause a build up of condensation inside the container.
  • Oxygen – A high oxygen environment causes oxidation, which leads to discoloration, flavor loss, odors, rancidity and the breakdown of nutritional value in foods. It also allows insects to feed on dried food reserves. Without oxygen, insects cannot live, nor can aerobic (oxygen dependent) organisms. Whole grain and beans have natural oxygen barriers and can store for long periods of time in low humidity and if free from infestation. All other processed grains, vegetables, fruits, etc. must be in a very reduced (2% or less – military specs) oxygen environment for long term storage.  Note:  Mylar bags or plastic buckets are not a long term (over 3 years) moisture or oxygen barrier. The moisture and gas transmission rates through these materials vary depending upon the specifications of the manufacturers.  Plastic absorbs gases, moisture, and odors.  The best long term storage containers are glass and metal, which have a zero gas transmission rate.  The seal of containers made of metal and glass must be air tight.
  • Infestation – Examples include rodents, insects in all their stages of growth, mold, microorganisms, and any other creatures that get hungry – large or small.  The proper packaging and storage conditions are required to control infestation and not allow critters to both get into the food, or have the necessary environment for them to flourish if they are sealed into a container – such as in the form of eggs or spores.  Aerobic organisms can not survive in an oxygen free environment.  Rodents and other animals can eat through even the thickest plastic containers in relatively short periods of time.  Metal cans are more challenging.  For bears it depends on how hungry they are.
  • Handling – Rough handling can not only damage the food itself, but it can also adversely effect and compromise the integrity of the container in which the food is stored.  Glass of course can break; any pouched item can develop pin holes, tears, or cracks.  The seams on buckets and cans can be tweaked, twisted, or damaged to allow oxygen to enter the container.
  • Light – Food should not be stored in direct sunlight.  Both for the potential of high temperature, and its affect on food value.  Sunlight directly on stored foods can destroy nutritional value and hasten the degeneration of food quality, taste, and appearance.  Foods packed in light barrier containers do not pose a problem with the effects of light.

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