If you have ever purchased MREs before, you would have probably noticed that these products do not display the usual expiration dates. The MRE manufacturers do not make use of expiration dates like standard products you find on supermarket shelves which include the day, the month and the year. However, this is not an indication that MREs is a type of immortal food product that will never go bad. Even MREs will eventually expire.
MRE Shelf Life
To find out the answer about how long MREs will last when you keep them in storage will depend mainly on the actual temperature that they are stored in. For example, if the MREs are stored at 60° F or lower, your MREs should last for at least 5 years. The time will decrease as the temperature increases. If your MREs are stored at an average room temperature of 70° F, then you can expect the product to last for around 3 years.
How To Make Your MREs Last Longer
Because the temperature is the deciding factor when it comes to extending the shelf-life of an MRE, it should be your main priority, when choosing a location for MRE storage. When choosing an area in your home to store your MREs, it should be dry, cool and protected. You should also ensure that the temperature is cold, yet not frozen. It is not advisable to freeze MREs as the packaging could break. This is particularly true when it comes to repeated freezing and the unfreezing of the product. This is due to the expanding and then contracting of contents inside the pouches that result in eventual failure of the pouch. It is advisable to avoid freezing MREs.
If the MRE food pouches are damaged or punctured the contents inside the pouch will go bad just like any other food that is exposed to oxygen. If the seal on the pouch is punctured, food rations are susceptible and exposed to bacteria and oxygen, which immediately compromises the shelf-life, that will result in food spoilage. For this reason, make sure you do not store your MREs near sharp objects such as your knife collection or near sharp tools.
To ensure your MREs are protected and to obtain the most extended shelf-life from these products, it is suggested from most of the manufacturers that they are stored in a dry and cool environment that cannot be accessed by pests such as rodents. A dry cellar or basement is suggested as an ideal condition for storing MREs.
Additional Information About MRE Shelf Life
According to most of the manufacturers, MREs should last for 5 years when stored at room temperature. According to studies conducted on taste testing, the cooler that you store your MREs, the better. For example, if the MREs are stored at a constant temperature of 75 degrees, the taste testing indicated that these meals can last for just over 7 years. However, if you store MREs in a cooler environment such as a warehouse or a dry basement, the shelf life can extend to 10 years.
The manufacturers use an estimated shelf-life of between 3 to 5 years when it comes to MRE pouched-food products, yet the actual shelf-life usually varies from these estimates. The primary factor on the shelf-life always goes back to the temperature that the product is stored at.
The Shelf Life On The Non-MRE Components
The Freeze-Dried Coffee packets and the electrolyte drinking powders will feature a “Best Used By” date which means that the product should be used within this time frame. When this time has expired which is usually within 2 years, it does not mean that the product is spoilt. However, at a certain point, these products will start to lose their color and flavor. To ensure quality satisfaction for both MREs and non-MRE components, the products should always be stored in a dry, and cool area that is not exposed to direct sunlight.
How To Determine The Expiration Dates On Your MREs
The MREs do not display expiration dates in the traditional sense. These products make use of a 4-digit Production Date Code which is an identification of the date of the manufacture or packaging, which is in some cases followed by a 4-digit Production Lot Number.
It is the 1st 4 numbers of the code which indicates the manufacture date, with the first digit that identifies the “year” of production, with the last 3 digits indicating the “day of the year production.” If your MREs have a 2nd set of 4-digits, these are to identify the Lot Pack. Here is an example of the type of codes featured on MREs:
The code 5182 means that your MRE was either packaged or manufactured on the 1 July 2015 or the 182nd day of the year 2015.