Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Short term vs. long term food storage

Most food products lose nutrients over time. Prepared foods come with a date stamped expiration, after which the manufacturer does not recommend use. Notwithstanding the date stamp, many foods will still be edible long after that date. The reason for following the guidelines, is that knowing which foods fall into the category of extended shelf life is very difficult to predict.

However, there is a whole category of foods that have tested to extra long shelf life. As quoted from the Provident Living Website, "While there is a decline in nutritional quality and taste over time, depending on the original quality of food and how it was processed, packaged, and stored, the studies show that even after being stored long-term, the food will help sustain life in an emergency."

Those foods that store well for as long as 30 years, so long as they are kept dry and free from pest infestation, are wheat, white rice, corn, sugar, pinto beans, rolled oats, pasta, potato flakes and apple slices. Both non-fat powdered milk and dehydrated carrots can last as long as 20 years. Some other staples that have a long shelf life include items like salt, baking soda, and Vitamin C.

Foods high in oil and vegetable oil itself may only last one or two years.

Short term storage works well with a system of rotation, putting the newly purchased items in the back in a first in-first out system of management. If you inventory your food supply and find items that are older and have not been consumed, you can draw the conclusion that your particular needs do not include that item.

In all food storage situations, local laws and ordinances concerning food should be observed. Although in the U.S. food storage is somewhat unusual, it is not bizarre or strange to have a adequate food supply for times of need or emergency.

1 comment:

Quantumleap42 said...

I have found that in some cases expiration dates are put on food products (and other products as well) not because the food will go bad soon after that date, but rather because there might be a slight decrease in the taste (i.e. quality). Thus the producer puts the date on it to ensure that that buyer will use it in a timely manner and (hopefully) return to buy the same product soon. In this sense the purpose of the expiration date is to ensure a consistent stream of customers.

There are also some expiration dates I have seen that did not make sense until the reasoning behind them was properly explained, such as having an expiration date on bottled water. Water, like salt, is a molecule and does not break down over time. Without any outside contamination water should store indefinitely, but the idea behind the expiration date on bottled water does not have to do with the water, but with the bottle. The plastic bottles will breakdown over time and will slowly contaminate the water, hence they put an expiration date on the bottle. Though I think that this is also an example of the first point that I mentioned, where expiration dates are set to ensure consistent consumption.