THE 411 ON FOOD STORAGE
This may be a bit of a read but if you’re wondering about food storage and shelf life details it’s going to be worth your time. Hopefully it’s everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask.
Canned Food Study One
A Food and Drug Administration Article about a shelf life test that
was conducted on 100-year old canned foods that were retrieved from
the Steamboat Bertrand can be read at the following link:
Following is a brief summary of a very small portion of the above article:
“Among the canned food items retrieved from the Bertrand in 1968 were
brandied peaches, oysters, plum tomatoes, honey, and mixed vegetables.
In 1974, chemists at the National Food Processors Association (NFPA)
analyzed the products for bacterial contamination and nutrient value.
Although the food had lost its fresh smell and appearance, the NFPA
chemists detected no microbial growth and determined that the foods
were as safe to eat as they had been when canned more than 100 years
earlier. The nutrient values varied depending upon the product and
nutrient. NFPA chemists Janet Dudek and Edgar Elkins report that
significant amounts of vitamins C and A were lost. But protein levels
remained high, and all calcium values ‘were comparable to today’s
“NFPA chemists also analyzed a 40-year-old can of corn found in the
basement of a home in California. Again, the canning process had kept
the corn safe from contaminants and from much nutrient loss. In
addition, Dudek says, the kernels looked and smelled like recently
“According to a recent study cosponsored by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and NFPA, canned foods provide the same nutritional value
as fresh grocery produce and their frozen counterparts when prepared
for the table. NFPA researchers compared six vegetables in three
forms: home-cooked fresh, warmed canned, and prepared frozen. ‘Levels
of 13 minerals, eight vitamins, and fiber in the foods were similar,’
says Dudek. In fact, in some cases the canned product contained high
levels of some vitamins that in fresh produce are destroyed by light
or exposure to air.”
Canned Food Study Two
A canned food shelf life study conducted by the U.S. Army revealed
that canned meats, vegetables, and jam were in an excellent state of
preservation after 46 years.
The Washington State University summary article can be read at:
Dry Food Study One
A scientific study conducted at Brigham Young University on the shelf
life of a variety of different dry foods can be read at both of the
A brief summary of the above web site information shows the following
estimated shelf life per dry food item:
Over 30 years for wheat and white rice.
30 years for pinto beans, macaroni, rolled oats, and potato flakes.
20 years for powdered milk.
All dry food items should be stored in airtight moisture proof
containers at a temperature between 40ºF to 70°F.
Salt, baking soda, and granulated sugar still in their original
containers have no known shelf life limit if properly stored.
Dry Food Study Two
Following are some direct quotes taken from the above web site:
Food scientists now know that, when properly sealed, some dried food
that’s been sitting on shelves for years, could still be OK to eat.
“It lasts a lot longer than we thought,” Oscar Pike a food scientist
at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, tells DBIS.
Scientists have known certain foods like sugar and salt can be stored
indefinitely, but wanted to learn the shelf life of other food like
dried apples — stored since 1973 — tried by taste testers.
“I like to call it the emergency shelf life of the food, food that
you’d still be willing to eat in an emergency,” Pike says. “It’s not
as though it were freshly canned, but it’s certainly edible.”
He says the best foods to store are low in moisture, like wheat and
powered milk. But keep all foods away from heat and light to stop it
from going stale and losing nutritional value. “All the foods that
we’ve tested have been stored at room temperature or below, so you
want to avoid attic and garage storage.”
In the study, researchers taste-tested rolled oats that had been
stored in sealed containers for 28 years. Three-fourths of tasters
considered the oats acceptable to eat in an emergency.
Dry Food Study Three
Following are some quotes taken from the above web site:
It is important to first identify what is meant by “food storage” and
“shelf life.” “Food storage” that is intended to be held long-term is
generally considered to be low moisture food packed in either #10 cans
or in metalized bags placed within large buckets. “Shelf life” can be
defined in the following two ways:
“Best if used by” shelf life – Length of time food retains most of its
original taste and nutrition.
“Life sustaining” shelf life – Length of time food preserves life,
without becoming inedible.
There can be a wide time gap between these two definitions. For
example, most foods available in the grocery store that are dated have
a “Best if used by” date that ranges from a few weeks to a few years.
On the other hand, scientific studies have determined that when
properly stored, powdered milk has a “Life sustaining” shelf life of
20 years. That is, the stored powdered milk may not taste as good as
fresh powdered milk, but it is still edible.
Shelf life is extremely dependent on the following storage conditions:
Temperature: Excessive temperature is damaging to food storage. With
increased temperature, proteins breakdown and some vitamins will be
destroyed. The color, flavor and odor of some products may also be
affected. To enhance shelf life, store food at room temperature or
below; never store food in an attic or garage.
Moisture: Excessive moisture can result in product deterioration and
spoilage by creating an environment in which microorganisms may grow
and chemical reactions can take place.
Oxygen: The oxygen in air can have deteriorative effects on fats, food
colors, vitamins, flavors, and other food constituents. It can cause
conditions that will enhance the growth of microorganisms.
Light: The exposure of foods to light can result in the deterioration
of specific food constituents, such as fats, proteins, and vitamins,
resulting in discoloration, off-flavors, and vitamin loss.
EXAMPLES OF SHELF LIFE:
Recent scientific studies on dehydrated food have shown that food
stored properly can last for a much longer period of time than
previously thought. This research determined the “life sustaining”
shelf life to be the following:
Dry Food Item Shelf Life
Wheat, White Rice, and Corn 30 years or more
Pinto Beans, Apple Slices, Macaroni 30 years
Rolled Oats, and Potato Flakes 30 years
Powdered Milk 20 years