The reduced shelf life of food rations is costing the US military millions of dollars each year in wasted food, so University of Florida researchers have been working on ways to improve the shelf life of the Army’s Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) and First Strike Rations (FSRs) for front-line troops.
“These rations were originally developed with a shelf life of three years for MREs and two years for FSRs - but at 80 degrees [26.6°C],” said Jeffrey Brecht, director of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Research Center for Food Distribution and Retailing. “However, when they send them to the Middle East, they could be exposed to temperatures as high as 140 degrees [60°C], at which point the shelf life could be four weeks or less, instead of three years.”
Brecht is the leader of a five-year, $6.7 million study into the longevity of Army rations, which has developed a temperature-monitoring system that relies on radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology for wireless information transfer that allows for remote monitoring and prediction of remaining shelf life for rations and perishable products.
The team's research showed that the RFID system can facilitate smarter decision-making at all points in the MRE supply chain, showing which rations should be discarded, which should be shipped first and where rations can be shipped with confidence that quality won’t suffer when they arrive.
“These efforts, when effectively integrated within the supply chain, can help ensure that war fighters continue to receive high-quality, highly acceptable rations with minimal product losses,” said Joseph Zanchi, a logistics management specialist at the Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.
While the US military has yet to implement the system, Zanchi says it may be taken up in the near future. To read more, click HERE.