Thursday, June 12, 2008

Shelf-Stable Foods; Check Them Out

Shelf-stable foods? No, this is not food found in the stable on a shelf. But it could prove to be a type of food that you may not have recognized as a bonus for your preparedness pantry.

If you’ve taken a close look at grocery store shelves lately, you may have noticed a type of packaging that didn’t even exist a dozen or so years ago. Or maybe you haven’t recognized them at all as something you really should be aware of. It’s called aseptic packaging and it has the potential of influencing your pantry in several ways. “Shelf-stable” is another term for products that have been aseptically packaged. Prepared food that would normally have to be refrigerated or frozen can be left on shelves at room temperature after it has been aseptically packaged. Shelf-stable packaging uses a space-age technology called the retort process. Used in canning for many years, this method requires that the entire product be heated through, destroying all bacteria present. Liquids are flash heated to an ultra-high temperature in a very short time, and then enclosed in bacteria-free packaging made of layers of plastic, aluminum foil and fiberboard in a bacteria-free atmosphere.

Now all of this just means that these foods are suited for your pantry whether or not you have a custom built, temperature controlled, perfect pantry!

Yes, you may recognize that this description fits MRE’s, but this blog discussion is not about MRE”s and all of the pro’s and con’s that exist there.

These are usually brand-name foods easily found in your local supermarkets. Look again to check out those shelves as you go through those super markets with new insight. A few of the products to be found in this type of packaging are juices, juice drinks, soups, puddings, milk, casseroles and other microwaveable entrees. The easily recognized packages of juice with the tiny straw attached that many of you have used in school lunches are shelf-stable. You’ll recognize more and more shelf-stable convenience meals and side dishes being offered, with prices competitive with frozen and refrigerated counterparts.

The best benefits of aseptic or shelf-stable packaging are that they don’t require any refrigeration and they have a shelf life of two years or longer. They are great to have on hand as convenience foods for busy days, though cost could still an issue if you’re watching your budget. (Being price conscious and watching for sales can help.)

However, look again with your preparedness pantry or evacuation kits in mind. “Freezer freedom” could prove to be a major advantage for your emergency preparedness cupboard, particularly if space is a challenge you have to deal with. Aseptically packaged meals and drinks are perfect for having on hand in case of emergencies that knock out power. Since they are fully cooked, they could be eaten cold, or heated on a camp stove in hot water. Some of them are ideal for use in 72-hour emergency evacuation kits. Next time you’re at the grocery store, look around and see how many different shelf stable foods you can find. Then decide how they can benefit your preparedness pantry..

I must admit one major drawback with shelf-stable foods. I haven’t been able to locate any milk chocolate. Oh well.


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1 comments:

Beatriz said...

Dear Barbara,

I am very glad to read your discussion on shelf stable food and beverages.

Unfortunately, the American consumer in comparison to e.g. their European counterpart is not very aware that these products exist and what their benefits are.

Note however, that there is a clear difference between Retort and HTST (high temperature short time products). Though the results are the same i.e. products do not need refrigeration for an extended amount of time, the method differs.

Aseptic carton (which is typically found in the sections of juice boxes, soy milk, soups and broths) is produced by heating the product with a high temperature for a short time (2-4 seconds), followed by flash cooling. As such, vitamins, minerals, texture and flavor are perfectly preserved.

However, a sterile product is only half the trick, the container also needs to be sterile. During the filling of the product, sterile product is put into a sterile container.This is how a shelf life of up to one year can be reached without any chemicals or preservatives!

This differs from retort products where containers are 'cooked' for an extensive amount of time, with a substantial loss of product quality.

For more information, check out the website of the Aseptic packaging council http://www.aseptic.org

Regards,

Marquerite Gerritsen

Key Account Manager
SIG Combibloc Inc.
www.sig.biz