Outdated Freeze Dried Food Safe?

10:41 a.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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I have some never-opened packages of commercial freeze-dried meals, some of them several years past the use-by date. All the packages are in good condition with no holes. Can I assume that it probably still safe to eat?

12:49 p.m. on February 13, 2009 (EST)
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Been there, done that, way too many times. We make a practice of writing our purchase date in large characters on all our food with a grease pencil. This makes it much easier to check than the sometimes secret codes the packagers use.

To directly answer your question, it depends on how long past the "use by" date and what kind of food. If there is much grease/fat/oil, it tends to taste rancid within a year or two past the "use by" date. Some of the foods that have a packet of flavoring to add have the oil in that packet, so the pasta may taste ok, but the flavoring is bad. Some of the foods that have dehydrated meat (particularly beef, pork, and bacon) can go bad by a year or 2 after the date, as can shrimp dishes. Egg dishes (the various scrambled egg mixes) and powdered milk don't seem to last more than a year past the "use by" date, and can taste and smell really foul. The pastas seem to last for 4 or 5 years, if the sauces are vegetable, though by that point, some of the vegetables refuse to rehydrate. Fruit dishes (like the compote desserts) seem to be ok 3 or 4 years after the "use by" date. I did use a turkey pasta a couple weekends ago that had our purchase date of 1992 on it (that's 16 years old!) - didn't get sick, didn't die, I don't recommend you try this, though.

We have gotten into this situation because we sometimes buy a lot when REI is having a sale or when supplying for a month-long trek, especially when there is a possibility the plane or boat might not pick you up for an extra week or two. Plus the times we get some interesting new package, try one of them, then decide it isn't really that tasty.

The short answer is it's probably ok for a year past the "use by" date, but you better use caution on the meat and fat-containing dishes. This all assumes the package is completely intact, including no tiny holes (which can happen when the package is stuffed in and out of your pack a number of times).

Suggestion - around Thanksgiving and Christmas times each year, when the local food banks are asking for donations, go through your supply. Donate those packs that are within a couple months of or no more than 1 year past their "use by" dates. Toss the packs that are more than a year past their "use by" dates. And don't over-buy in the first place. Before you succumb to the great prices at the REI freezedry sale, purge your old supply.

8:16 p.m. on February 14, 2009 (EST)
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Bill,

Great advice. You should make that a FAQ.

I have little experience with freeze-dried food. My only measure of edibility is "Is it moving?" Palatability gave way to expedience years ago - which was fortunate since I had to spend so much time in foreign climes where my host would wax euphoric over something gelatinous quivering on my plate.

Reed

9:28 a.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks for the info and advice, Bill. My main concern is getting sick from outdated freeze-dried food. I guess there's always that chance if its outdated.

By the way, was your avatar photo shot in Antarctica by chance? I'm at McMurdo Station right now.

12:33 p.m. on February 15, 2009 (EST)
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...By the way, was your avatar photo shot in Antarctica by chance? I'm at McMurdo Station right now.

Yes, Branscomb Glacier, just above Camp One Half, on the way to Low Camp on Vinson - almost the other side of the continent from you.

September 23, 2014
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