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How Long Does Dehydrated or Freeze-dried Food Last after Opening?

Emergency Essentials - May 22, 2012

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Learn just how far you can stretch those precious cans and packets of food storage by considering quality of food and exposure to air, heat, and light.

When the time comes to use your food storage items - either in an emergency or in your day-to-day meal planning - one thing you'll want to know is the shelf life of your items once they have been opened. Knowing how long you have to use dehydrated or freeze-dried foods after opening them will ensure that your food storage is put to its best use and none of your storage efforts (or money) will be wasted. 

There are a few factors that determine how long food will last after it is opened. They include the following:

The quality of the food at the time it is opened
The degree to which food is exposed to oxygen and moisture
The degree to which food is exposed to heat and light

The quality of the food at the time it is opened: 
The older food storage gets and the more it is subjected to fluctuating temperatures (below freezing and above 80 degrees), the more the quality of the food will be affected. 

The degree to which food is exposed to oxygen and moisture: 
As soon as a storage container is opened, the food inside is exposed to air. Air contains both oxygen and moisture, both of which will affect the shelf life of your food. The higher the humidity (moisture content) of the air, the faster the product quality (nutrition and taste) will decrease. 

The degree to which food is exposed to heat and light: 
Temperature greatly affects the speed at which food deteriorates. The higher the temperature is, the faster the quality (nutrition and taste) declines and the shorter the time food stays edible and safe. Since many organisms require light to grow, exposure to light also causes deterioration. 

As a general rule, food stored in a #10 can or a bucket, depending on the above factors, may stay good up to one year after opening. Use your best judgment in deciding which food items to use. One way to determine if food is still of acceptable quality is to verify that it smells normal. Another way is to taste it or cook with it. If the quality of the finished product is satisfactory, continue to use it. Although food will lose nutritive value over time, old food retains some caloric and mineral value. It may have some life-sustaining ability remaining. The information below includes general guidelines intended to help make an educated decision. Each situation is unique due to many contributing factors. 

Recommendations: 
Before and after opening your food storage, you can prolong its shelf-life by eliminating the adverse affects listed above. Store your food in the coolest, darkest and most airtight environment possible. 

Consider the following options to extend the life of food once the container has been opened:

-Pour what has not been used into a zip-top freezer bag and seal the bag. Place the bagged food back into the can and replace the lid (to eliminate light).
-Pour the remaining food into Snapware containers, which offer an airtight seal.
-Commercially available sealers can create an airtight environment. Put the food back into the can with the plastic lid secured.
-Generally speaking, refrigeration or frozen storage can extend the life of food. If you do not have much refrigeration or frozen storage space, use a pantry, cupboard, etc.

Making the effort to store food for an emergency will be priceless to you if and when you need it. Taking these small extra steps will ensure that your investment will last and be the best quality possible for you and your family in a time of need.

© Emergency Essentials, 2012.
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