When considering food packaging for emergency / disaster use (and therefore longer storage periods) it is equally important to also consider the actual food being packaged and stored. These items are called emergency food product (EFP).
- Three (3) Basic categories:
- Emergency Food Ration Bars
- Food: Dry Goods, Cans and Jars
- Meals Ready-To-Eat (MREs)
Emergency Food Ration Bars
These items are packaged in hermetically sealed pouches. The original packaging should be sufficient for storing over extended periods of time.
Include but not limited to: cereal, grains, pasta, beans, flour, sugar & seasoning. The original packaging may or may not be sufficient for storing over extended periods of time. [See list of packaging pros and cons below.]
Cans and Jars
These items are usually designed for extended storage but it depends on how the food is processed before packaging. [See list of packaging pros and cons below.]
Meals Ready-To-Eat (MREs)
The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States Department of Defense for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. While MREs should be kept cool, they do not need to be refrigerated. MREs replaced the canned MCI, or Meal, Combat, Individual rations, in 1981, and is the intended successor to the lighter LRP ration developed by the United States Army for Special Forces and Ranger patrol units in Vietnam. MREs have also been distributed to civilians during natural disasters.
Some certain foods are likely to interact with some packaging types. Here are some key traits of major food packaging products:
And if you use plastic packaging…
Plastic is ubiquitous. They are the lifeline of food packaging, despite facing protests from environmentalist. Love it or hate it, it is true that no packaging is as flexible, affordable and attractive as plastic. Again, it is important to choose the right plastic packaging for your food products. Here are some types of plastic and how they go with your food products:
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET) (Code: 1): Lightweight plastic and has great impact-resistant properties. It is safe and easy to recycle. PETE is a popular packaging option for beverages, oil, water, salad dressing, and jam/jelly.
High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) (Code: 2): Low-risk plastic, making it useful for the packaging of milk, water, cereal, and juice.
Low-Density Polyethylene is ideal for making grocery bags but it is not recyclable so should be repurposed.
Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC (Code: 3): Used in making packaging for food wrap, bottles, oil, and OTC drugs. As it contains chlorine as its key ingredient, it is biologically and chemically resistant. However, it is not safe for cooking or heating and is generally not accepted by recycling programs.
Low-Density Polyethylene or LDPE (Code: 4): Ideal for making grocery bags, food wraps, squeezable bottles, and bread bags. It is not thicker than most resins, though it has a strong heat-resisting property. Despite being safe, it is not recyclable and can harm the environment. Therefore, it is recommended to reuse or repurpose it.
PP or Polypropylene (Code: 5): Commonly used to make the packaging of yogurt, medicines, and ketchup. Its heat-resisting property makes it safe to microwave.
Polystyrene or Styrofoam (Code: 6): Ideal for food packaging like disposable cups, bowls, take away food containers and plastic cutlery. However, it is not safe as it leaches potentially toxic chemicals when coming into contact with heat. It is also not easy to recycle and should, therefore, be repurposed and reused.
Other or O (Code 7): Either the packaging is made with polycarbonate or the bioplastic polylactide or with more than one plastic material.