If the meals are stored at a temperature of 80 degrees F/26.7 degrees C the current shelf life chart shows they will last a minimum of 36 months.
The lower the storage temperature, the longer the shelf life.
Therefore, even after the expiration of the MRE according to the shelf life chart, at least some of the items included within the Unit could still be worthy of use, keeping in mind some of the components may expire sooner than others.
The additional components within the complete meal are also normally produced within 30 days or less of their packaging date.
Service members in various geographic regions and combat situations often required different subsets of ingredients for food to be considered palatable over long periods.
Moreover, catering to individual tastes and preferences would encourage service members to actually consume the whole ration and its nutrition.
They must be able to stand up to abuse tests such as obstacle course traversal in field clothing pockets; storage outdoors anywhere in the world; shipping under extremely rough circumstances (such as by truck over rocky terrain); 100% survival of parachute drops; 75% survival from free failure drops; severe repetitive vibration (1 hour at G vibration); 7,920 individual pouch drops from 20 inches; and individual pouches being subject to a static load of 200 pounds for three minutes.
Freezing an MRE pouch does not destroy the food inside, but repeated freezing increases the chance that the stretching and stressing of the pouch will cause a break on a layer of the laminated pouch.
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The shelf life determinations were made solely on the basis of taste, as acceptable nutritional content and basic product safety extend far beyond the point where taste degradation would occur.