Oct 18 2009
The Shelf Life of Long Term Food Storage Items
By Frank Salvo
There are four main factors that determine the shelf life of your long term food storage items. If you are looking to start a food storage program for your family, or you already have one, you will want to be aware of these things in order to get the maximum shelf life possible.
The four factors are as follows. The temperature of the storage area, the moisture content of the food, the atmosphere in the storage container, and the storage container itself. Let’s look at each of those factors.
1) Temperature of the Storage Area
Temperature has more to do with how long storable food will last than anything else. If you are planning on storing your food in a warm environment, it will only last a fraction of the time it would last in a cool, dry place. Some feel that the optimum temperature is 40 degrees F or less. However, not everyone will be able to achieve that. Another factor is that you have a place where the temperature is relatively constant. Frequent temperature changes can also shorten the life of storable food.
Remember to choose a cool, dry, dark place, where the temperature remains relatively constant, for storing your food.
2) Moisture Content of the Food
Foods with excess moisture can spoil in their containers. Food chosen for long term storage should have a moisture content of 10% or less. This is hard to achieve because most people don’t have access to specialized equipment.
An alternative is to get freeze-dried food, which has been specially-prepared for this purpose. The moisture content of these foods has been taken care of in the preparation process.
3) Atmosphere in the Storage Container
Oxygen oxidizes many of the compounds in food, so foods packed in air in storage containers will not store as well as Nitrogen, which is a popular gas for storing food, and one that works very well.
Some people use oxygen absorber packets. You simply place one in the storage container and seal. When you use these, you must have a storage container that is able to withstand some vacuum pressure. This is because the absorber packet will create a slight vacuum as it absorbs the oxygen.
Most food units that are packaged and sold for long term food storage have been packed with nitrogen in the #10 cans.
4) The Storage Container
Storage containers should have a hermetic seal (air tight) in order to get the longest life out of your stored foods. #10 Cans and sealable food-grade storage buckets work very well for this.
You must make certain that the storage containers you use are food grade containers. #10 cans that are used for food storage often have an enamel lining for this purpose. You can also buy plastic food-grade 5 gallon buckets.
If you buy a commercially-prepared food unit with #10 cans, then the second, third, and fourth factors are already addressed for you. In order to satisfy the first factor, you will still want to store the food in a cool, dry, dark place.
If you decide to buy plastic buckets, add the food, and seal them yourself, you will need to rent a nitrogen cylinder to fill the airspace in the buckets. When you do this, the oxygen will be displaced leaving only the nitrogen. Again, make sure that you purchase food-grade quality buckets. This is very important.
Remember these things when purchasing or creating a supply of long term storable food for your family.
Frank Salvo has been involved in food storage and emergency preparedness for the past 20 years. To learn more about these topics, please visit: http://www.freezedriedsurvivalfood.com.