Understanding the Packaging Material When It Comes To the Shelf Life of Survival Foods
What is the Water Vapor Transfer Rate (WVTR)? WVTR measures the transfer rate of moisture as it pertains to packaging materials, moisture that is transferred from the storage environment that then mixes in with the foods in the packaging.
This is particularly important when it comes to freeze dried survival foods, and their stated shelf life. In reality, a survival food company cannot state with any certainty what the shelf life is unless they know what the WVTR is.
The Question Is Do the Manufactures Know or Care What the WVTR is and Would They Tell You If They Did Know
Let’s keep in mind food may be edible, (term used loosely), when it reaches its stated shelf life. However, in some cases it may not in fact be edible. Nonetheless, vapor transfer overtime will affect the quality of the food.
If enough moisture is allowed in it will affect the taste, texture, smell and eventually sets the stage for spoilage of the foods. Just how much moisture is allowed in is the key question, and it is something you should be aware of before choosing a survival food company.
A critical factor in selecting food packaging materials is permeability, in other words, the transmission rate of moisture through the packaging material. The vapor transfer rate has a direct effect on food quality, and moisture, as we know, can reduce the shelf life of foods dramatically (Kay Cooksey, Ph.D. n.d.).
If the maker states the shelf life is 15 years, how much water vapor is absorbed in the first five years, for example? Moisture permeates through the packaging at a certain rate based on the quality of the packaging material. The permeability factor is critical, because it can, based on the rate, reduce the manufactures’ stated, shelf life considerably.
The point here of course is that you do not always get what you expect. All survival foods are not created equal, so careful research is needed before purchasing survival foods for long term storage.
Help In Choosing Using Third Party Studies
Survival food companies that are serious about their product should embrace third party testing of their product, and of the packaging material the product is stored in. The WVTR should be public for any consumer to see, so they can make informed decisions.
If you knew, for example, that the food on your shelf right now has absorbed up to 24 ounces of water as it sat on the shelf would you feel comfortable about the stated shelf life?
Furthermore, would you have access to the vapor transfer rate if a company allows third party testing. Would the company make it clear studies have been conducted, and would they encourage you to read the studies by making any conducted by third parties accessible on their websites?
Honesty goes a long way, but in today’s competitive survival food market everyone wants an edge, a leg up on competitors, if you will, so certain claims are made that cannot be verified by the consumer.
If manufacturer #1 stated clearly that their product only lasts for five years under certain conditions and manufacturer #2 claims their product lasts 20 years under relatively the same conditions, which company would you buy from if shelf life is a deciding factor.
In reality, you do not know if the food is good for 20 years unless you have access to certain information. The first manufacturer may simply be making an honest statement. They know their packaging is not of the highest quality. However, the one that claims their foods are only good for five years is at a disadvantage from a marketing standpoint.
If a manufactures states their foods last “up-to” a certain date, it can mean that the food could spoil at any time up to that date. The “up to date” is a red flag in some cases, and further investigation would be needed.
To be competitive they may get vague and even exaggerate somewhat on the quality of the packaging, and of the quality of their foods in general. They may want to stay competitive without investing large amounts of money in studies and upgrades to ensure their packaging is of the highest quality.
What is in Your Foods
According to the United States Military, the Military Specification (MILSPEC) for oxygen levels in certain packaged foods is less than 2 percent oxygen. Are there high levels of oxygen in your survival foods?
Oxygen in foods allows for oxidation of fats and oils, which causes foods to go rancid, so controlling the amount in your survival food packaging is critical to the stability of the foods. The levels are important so you can be assured that the foods will last on your shelf for 20 years if that is the stated shelf life, for example.
Once again packaging has a direct affect on oxygen levels in your survival foods. The packaging material will allow absorption, but how much over time is acceptable, and how much is too much.
A reputable company will commission studies to be conducted by a third party to measure the oxygen levels in their products. If high levels are detected then appropriate measures can be taken, but corrective action cannot be taken if the manufactures do not allow the studies.
Nutrition You Need To Be Concerned When It Comes To Survival Foods
Servings and Calories
To get an accurate figure on how many calories you are getting with each meal, or to calculate how many calories by the day, you have to do some math. After you put pencil to paper you may be surprised by some of the numbers.
Typically, survival food manufacturers sell their survival food kits based on servings. Servings per person based on a specified number of days and in some cases, the numbers are based on two servings per day. For example, if you purchase a kit that has 120 servings you have to decide if you want to eat 2 or 3 or even more meals (servings) during the day. How many people are you trying to feed, and how many meals do they want to eat, or in some cases, how many meals do they need to eat to get the proper number of calories and nutrients for the day.
Once you do the math on servings you want to look at calories. Typically, the information on the labeling shows estimated calories based on total consumption for the day based on servings and all of the extras like desserts and drinks.
What you may find is that you are only getting 1,200 calories per day in some cases, which for an active healthy adult probably is not enough given the fact that your activity level will increase during a crisis.
This means you will need to eat more food per serving or have more servings per day. It may end up that your calculations for servings could be wrong. In other words, your food will not last for as many days as you calculated. If you are eating two or even three meals a day using the portion sizes recommended then you are not getting enough nutrition.
You have to do your own math to know exactly how much food you need to meet the calorie intake for you and your family. You do not want to ration food during a crisis, so read the fine print on the labels to determine how many calories and other nutrients you are really getting, so you can correctly calculate the amounts you need for specific periods.
Know Where the Calories Are Coming From
The little add-ons that some manufactures add to their food kits provide empty calories, which are calculated for the overall daily consumption, so in essence you may be getting 2,000 calories per day but where are they coming from. They may be coming from the sugary drink packets, pudding packets, cookies and other snacks, so again carefully read the labels to determine how they arrive at their calorie content. You do not want to consume empty calories.
You Have To Like the Food
Food is often something that people buy without first testing driving it, if you will. It can be gamble if you do not know what the food taste like before you spend a considerable amount of money on it. Purchase single meal packets first, so everyone gets a taste to ensure it is quality food, and is it something you can see yourself eating during a crisis. It has to taste good.
Survival foods you buy such as freeze dried foods, for example, are not the entire solution, food on the shelf that lasts 20 or more years should not “be all and end all”. The particular brand of survival foods you favor should be a big part but not necessarily the entirety of your food preparations for when the SHTF.
You can actively can your own foods to help supplement, and everyone should consider growing some of your food right now instead of waiting until something happens.
Kay Cooksey, Ph.D. (n.d.). Retrieved 2015, from http://www.burchamintl.com/papers/petpapers/62.pdf