One of the top items on any list of survival essentials is long term emergency food. For years, survivalists and outdoors enthusiasts have been relying on dehydrated and freeze-dried food products to get them through their journeys.

By removing the oxygen from food you are preventing oxidation from occurring, a process that causes the fats and oils in food to become rancid. This enables certain foods to maintain a longer shelf life, in some cases maintaining its quality and flavor for 25 years.

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There are numerous emergency preparedness food products on the market right now that claim to have a shelf life of 25 years. However, in a recent oxygen study conducted by Fres-co System USA comparing several popular brands of survival and backpacking foods, it was found that many of the leading brands contain high oxygen levels, therefore disproving their claims of having a 12-25 year shelf life.

Brands were chosen based on brand awareness in either the outdoor adventure or emergency preparedness segments.  All foods tested consisted of dehydrated and/or freeze dried foods that are prepared by just adding water.

Out of the seven tested brands that sell pouches of long term food with a claimed shelf life of fifteen to twenty-five years: Mountain House, AlpineAire, Backpacker’s Pantry, National Geographic, Legacy Premium, Food Supply Depot, and Wise Company food storage; only Mountain House contained oxygen levels low enough to validate their claims of a guaranteed 12+ year shelf life.

Mountain house oxygen levels study
Any amount more than 3% O2 leads to oxidation in food.


According to Mountain House’s Blog, low oxygen levels with little or no variation from pouch to pouch are key indicators of both good process control and packaging integrity (other key indicators include: moisture, heat, and light). Oxygen degrades shelf life in foods by oxidizing fats and oils. This oxidation causes rancidity and unpalatable off-flavors. The presence of oxygen also depletes food of valuable vitamins A, C, D and E.

“Prolonged exposure to oxygen will cause most foods to become rancid within six months to two years, depending on ambient levels,” said Drew Huebsch, R&D manager for Mountain House.  “For truly long term storage of food – measured in decades – our research indicates that oxygen levels should be below 3 percent.  United States Military specifications go even further, requiring oxygen levels to be below 2 percent.”


The study measured the oxygen levels inside 30 pouches from each brand. Only Mountain House pouches maintained an oxygen level of less than 3 percent in all cases, with an average oxygen level of 1.42 percent. This bests the U.S. military specification of less than 2 percent oxygen. All other brands had average oxygen levels above 3 percent. Food Supply Depot fared the least favorable with near atmospheric average levels of oxygen at 17.76 percent.

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The study also tested for variation of oxygen levels from pouch to pouch, a measure of reliability and process control.  Mountain House again came out on top with a standard deviation of 0.3. The closest competitor, Backpacker’s Pantry, had a standard deviation of 2.4, or more than 8.1 times that of Mountain House. At the bottom of the list was Wise Company’s survival food at 8.4, representing a variability of 28.2 times greater than Mountain House.

“We’ve been making Mountain House for nearly 50 years,” says Reiner Bohlen, Marketing Manager at Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc., the parent company of Mountain House. “You don’t become the gold standard in outdoor meals and emergency food storage unless you make products consumers know they can trust to taste great, no matter what. We commissioned this study to see where we stand in the market and help determine where we could possibly make improvements. We want to make sure we continue to deliver on our promises.”


To see the complete study data click here.

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