Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Foods: Which Is The Better Method for Long Term Survival Food Storage

The Process of Freeze-Drying
Freeze-drying is a complex process of preserving fresh or already-cooked food by removing up to 98% of the food’s moisture, leaving intact the food’s texture, flavor, aroma and nutritional value.

The process requires that the fresh or cooked food be quickly frozen at temperatures as low as -50°C. The frozen food is then placed into a vacuum chamber. This vacuum chamber lowers the pressure, and raises the temperature to just about 0°C.

At this specific temperature and pressure, the ice crystals in the food evaporate into water vapor, bypassing water’s liquid form, through a process called sublimation.

This process preserves the cell structure and nutritional content of the food, resulting in a product that, when rehydrated, very closely resembles the original food.
The process also prevents the water from being reabsorbed by the food and thus decreases its weight significantly.

Most food items such as fruits, vegetables and meats are well-suited to freeze-drying, and can be used for long-term food storage and preservation.

The Process of Dehydration
Dehydrating food is a food preservation method which has been used for centuries. Native Americans dehydrated their buffalo kills in their hunting camps to make it simpler to transport. Pemmican (a dehydrated concoction of buffalo meat mixed with fat and berries) was a staple of many of the nomadic North American tribes. This low-heat dehydration process involved either air drying (with nearby campfires), or sun drying strips of meat on drying racks.

Dehydrators are a modern method for slowly removing the moisture from food without actually cooking it. A drawback of dehydration is the limited amount of food which can be dried at one time. The positive aspect of dehydration is that this method of processing for food storage can be easily done at home.

How Do These Two Methods Affect the Food?
Freeze-dried foods preserve much of the original color, shape, aroma and freshness of fruits, vegetables and meats. Freeze-dried food does not usually contain additives or preservatives, so it remains true to its original form. And the look, texture and flavor of the food remains after re-hydration.

Unlike low-heat dehydration, freeze-drying allows for the preservation of pre-cooked meals, including recipes such as soups, stews, stroganoff, and the like. An obvious benefit is that since the meal was prepared in its entirety prior to freeze-drying, all you need to do is simply add water, then heat for a few minutes in order to create sumptuous meals.

Rehydrating freeze-dried food takes just a few minutes, simply by adding boiling water. Some foods, like many fruits and vegetables, need no re-hydration before eating.

Dehydrated foods shrink during processing as the moisture is removed. So the food item itself is considerably smaller than its original size.

The re-hydration time of dehydrated foods takes a bit longer than freeze-dried, but it stills tastes like the original form of the food. Some dehydrated foods contain added ingredients to enhance flavors or assist in preservation. As with freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, dehydrated fruits and vegetables can be eaten without any re-hydration.

Both methods of food preservation increase the long-term storage life of food. Most commercially produced freeze-dried and dehydrated foods have a shelf life of 15 to 20 years, if properly packaged and stored in a cool, dry environment.

In addition to their being a reliable source of food in an emergency or long-term survival scenario, because of their light weight and ease of portability, these foods are also great for taking on camping, hiking and hunting trips. They are also a wise choice to keep in an emergency road-side kit for the car, or in your bug out bag.

If you choose to keep these foods in your car as part of an emergency kit, please remember to rotate them periodically. Temperatures in a car can reach extremes, both hot and cold. High heat as well as continuous temperature fluctuations contribute to quicker degradation of both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods.

Which Type is Better for Consumption?
Everyone is different, and each person has their own personal tastes and preferences. With that in mind, there are a few things to consider before making a decision between freeze-dried or dehydrated food.

Home-grown fruits and vegetables are better preserved via dehydration, since the average person cannot afford the costly machinery used in freeze-drying.

Foods used in everyday cooking and meal preparation should probably be freeze-dried. This permits the food to be quickly re-hydrated as it is cooked prior to serving. If accessibility and portability are important, than either type of preserved food should meet those particular needs. Once again, it’s a matter of personal preferences.

In a nutshell, both dehydrated and freeze-dried foods are excellent choices for long-term food storage, as well as for daily use or for hiking, camping, etc. They both provide light-weight, portable, convenient foods. The primary difference is that freeze-dried foods tend to better preserve the shape, texture and flavors of the original food.

Most people will find that a combination will work best for their needs. Single-item foods such as vegetables, potatoes, and other staples and grains are well-suited to low-heat dehydration. Freeze-drying is more appropriate for meats and fruits (whose texture can be preserved), and for pre-cooked meals with a variety of ingredients such as soups, stews and sauces.

As you incorporate freeze-dried and dehydrated foods into your lifestyle, whether for camping and recreation, convenience, or as a survival strategy, you will learn which items you prefer to be dehydrated, and which you prefer to be freeze-dried. In either case, be assured that your choices will offer the peace of mind of knowing that you have a reliable source of food in virtually any situation.

Organic Food Is Going Mainstream!

I’m always looking for healthy foods.

I started our journey to healthy when CJ was a toddler and at that time (15 years ago) there were not that many options and what little foods there were, they were hard to find. I would drive anywhere or buy foods via mail if they were organic, gluten-free and dairy free. So you can imagine, my first trip shopping at Whole Foods; I felt like a child on Christmas morning! There were so many healthy choices. I loved it. As I told my story to people and encouraged them to eat whole organic foods, many people said it was just too expensive and hard to find.

How sad that processed foods are cheaper than whole organic foods.

You would think it would be the opposite as processed foods take more time to make and factories and workers are needed. Unfortunately, the low quality ingredients in most processed foods allow for a cheaper price. It doesn’t seem fair or make much sense, but it’s reality.

We are just beginning to understand and accept the need for whole foods.

Let’s face it, people today are used to fast convenient foods so that’s what is readily available. It’s Economics 101-the problem is supply and demand. There are fewer healthy markets and organic farms so the demand may be getting higher, but the supply is still low, causing higher prices. For example, my cousin had many food allergies and was also not able to eat foods with preservatives when she was growing up in the 1970’s. My aunt had to drive 20+ miles to a health food store for things as simple as almond butter or whole grain bread. Thankfully today you can find many stores that sell healthier food choices, but it still may be expensive.

Shopping for organic foods will get even get easier and more reasonable!

Walmart is teaming up with Wild Oats organic foods. This essentially means organic foods will be available in almost every neighborhood. It also means that organic products will be sold for a better price. Consumers will not only have more options on where to buy organic foods, but the competition should bring organic prices down over all. That is a win win for the consumer.

The possibility for more organic foods available to everyone excites me.

The fact that Walmart is branching into organics means that the demand for organic food is not just for the stereotypical health food junkie, but also for the average consumer. This means that more people are aware of the dangers of eating chemically processed and genetically modified foods and want to change their eating habits. I think the competition between Walmart and traditional health food markets will raise awareness even more. My hope is that someone will see organic and non-organic foods side by side, see that the cost is similar and opt for organic. My dream would be that people would then buy fresh organic foods as well. This would also allow organic farmers without GMO produce to become more profitable. People wrongly believe that just because organic produce is more expensive, the farmers make more money. The truth is that it cost more to farm organically. Whole Foods has long held to the belief that they are “the buying agents for our customers and not the selling agents for the manufacturers.” Unfortunately for this once food revolutionary “food to fork” market has had their profits slip, as more grocery stores want to provide customers a healthier way to eat. I hope stores like Walmart retain the dignity and hard work of these small organic farmers and help them make more money as well.

What motivated Walmart to add organics?

I’m not sure why and maybe it did have to do with wanting a share of the growing “organic” market. I don’t care though because anything that gets people talking about, buying and eating healthy food choices is good. I do find it funny that Walmart has a disclaimer stating “This isn’t about telling our customers what to eat, nor is it an endorsement of certain foods. It’s about leveraging our scale to provide access to the choices that currently elude too many families in our country. It’s just one more way we’re helping our customers save money so they can live better.” I guess they don’t want to alienate the people who shop all the rest of the food aisles packed with processed food! Oh well, I will take any amount of health awareness I can get!

There are other ways to buy healthy at a reasonable or cheaper price.

One of the best and most fun (to me) ways to buy organic produce is to shop at the local farmer’s market. (There’s even a website called Local Harvest to help you locate the farmer’s market closest to you!) I love getting to know the vendors and learning what’s the best produce to buy for the season or even that day. Our early ancestors didn’t have food shipped from miles away. Rather, they ate the fresh food available to them and then fermented/cultured and canned their food to eat later. This not only preserved the food, but provided valuable good gut bacteria that helped their immune systems and over all health.

This is one less excuse for not buying organic!

As always, you need to be your own warrior and check the ingredients on everything you buy. Best rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what it is, it’s probably NOT good for your gut! Raw, whole, organic, fermented probiotic foods help replenish good gut bugs, amino acids and live enzymes, which you need when you don’t eat as well as you should AND even when you do eat well. Fermented foods are as essential to your body as drinking water. Your body needs it to be balanced so your body efficiently absorbs and distributes essential nutrients for all the other foods you eat too. A healthy gut equals a healthy body, mind and life!

The Science and Law of Food Testing

The scientific credentials of anyone working within food testing need to be underpinned with knowledge of the current and emerging regulations. This means keeping a breast of any changes to food quality standards. The all too recent horse meat scandal is a reminder of why food testing is needed with a global food supply chain.

Food testing labs fall into two key disciplines:

 

  • Food microbiology testing
  • Food chemistry testing

 

Both areas of food testing are about providing reliable, accurate results to make foods safer. Ensuring they meet the necessary statutory requirements and protect the consumer.

Food microbiology testing

Microbiology food testing is specifically for the identification of microorganisms which causing food spoilage and foodborne illness or where food producers’ use microorganisms to in food production, for example cheese making.

The most common applications of microbiology in food testing are:

• Shelf Life Determination – confirmation of the stability of a food product based upon storage conditions, time and temperature. The shelf life determination allows food producers to confidently set a Sell By Date or Use By Date.

• Water Testing – testing water is safe for human consumption within a food factory or manufacturing site. Because water a raw material and should be tested and analysed accordingly.

• Legionella Testing – testing water for the specific presence of Legionella bacteria, especially the most pathogenic (disease-causing) strain of Legionella bacteria is Legionella pneumophila group.

• Environmental Hygiene Monitoring – advice on how to set up food factory environmental control and monitoring plans to help meet the specifications required for good food factory environmental hygiene Helping reduce levels of contamination in finished products, leading to improved quality, fewer batch rejections and lower risk of product recall.

• Microbial Quality Determination – used to assess the microbiological quality of the end product, or an ingredient, or even the cleanliness of a food contact surface.

• Pathogen Determination/Identification – analysing and testing for food pathogens which cause illness in humans either by infections such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and pathogenic Ecoli or in toxications such as Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus aureus or Clostridium botulinum.

Food chemistry testing

Food chemistry testing is focused around nutritional values and determining the composition of food products. Identifying the presence of additives or contaminants and is generally used to ensure food and drink products meet consistent standards and quality. It can also be used to provide accurate data to meet regulatory and consumer requirements, for example food labeling.

The most common applications of food chemicals testing are:

• Group 1 Nutritional Testing – The minimum declaration permitted on food packaging and labeling is a “Group 1” declaration, this covers:

– Energy (kJ and kcal)

– Protein (g)

– Carbohydrate (g)

– Fat (g)

• Group 2 Nutritional Testing, including AOAC Dietary Fibre – the Government recommends that Group 2 information be given on all foods, on a voluntary basis, as this gives consumers information on the key health-related nutrients. Information declared should be expressed as g/100g or g/100ml.

– Energy (kJ and kcal)

– Protein (g)

– Carbohydrate (g)

of which:

– Sugars (g)

– Fat (g)

of which:

– Saturates (g)

– Fibre (g)

– Sodium (g)

• Meat and Fish Contents – There are limits on the presence of connective tissue and the amount of fat associated with lean meat. Analysis of meat content and collagen can provide you with figures for Nitrogen, Protein, Ash, Moisture, Fat, Carbohydrate, Apparent Meat with and without Fat and Energy Values in Kcals and Kjoules.

• Meat and Fish Speciation – Once flesh is removed from the carcass it is not always easy to visually identify the different species. The more processed the meat or fish, the less recognisable it becomes from its original species. It is at this stage that adulteration and contamination can occur. The identification of animal species is performed for a variety of reasons, both economic and ethnic, to prevent the substitution of meat with unsuitable or inferior species, or in religious communities where a particular meat is prescribed.

• Elemental Analysis – testing on the sixteen minerals present in food stuffs required to support human biochemical processes. These sixteen elements are divided into 2 categories; Quantity Elements Analysis and Essential Trace Elements Analysis.

Quantity Elements Analysis

– Sodium (Na)*

– Potassium (K)

– Magnesium (Mg)

– Calcium (Ca)

– Phosphorous (P)

– Sulphur (S)

– Chlorine (Cl)

* Salt Testing is an important part of nutritional declarations.

Essential Trace Elements Analysis

– Manganese (Mn)

– Iron (Fe)

– Cobolt (Co)

– Nickel (Ni)

– Copper (Cu)

– Zinc (Zn)

– Molybdenum (Mo)

– Selenium (Sel)

• Heavy Metals – Heavy metals are widely present in the environment, both from natural sources and human activities. These metals are dangerous as they tend to accumulate in the food chain. As the top consumer of the food chain, humans are subject to highest risk of heavy metal poisoning. The most common heavy metal food tests are:

– Arsenic (As)

– Cadmium (Cd)

– Lead (Pb)

– Mercury (Hg)

– Aluminium (Al)

– Silver (Ag)

– Tin (Sn)

• Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Screening – the analysis and legislative aspects of genetically modified (GM) foods and food products. GM Foods are monitored for safety by the European Food Safety Authority and other bodies and foods are checked for toxicology, allergic reaction and nutritional properties on both raw materials and finished products.

• Vitamins – claims of vitamins in foods are now commonplace. The legislation of consumer foods, food products and drinks ensures the consumer has accurate information.

Whether with natural vitamins or fortified with vitamins, products are closely monitored and accurate vitamin testing is essential to ensure that declared levels are correct, especially if a company is making a claim about a product.

• Water Activity (ERH), pH – water as an ingredient in foods and food products was the earliest form of food preservation. The availability of water for microbial growth and biochemical reactions may be controlled by dehydration, freezing and the addition of solutes such as salt and sugar, thus having the potential to prolong shelf-life of a product.

Food testing water activity is used for compliance of government regulations, CFR, HACCP and other food safety programs and helps food producers control and predict microbe activity.

• Allergens – since November 2005, food labelling regulations in the UK and Europe have insisted that allergens deliberately added to pre-packed food and food products must be labelled with allergen information. For example ‘gluten’ and ‘nuts.’

Four Ways to Keep Your Food Safe

There is an old English saying “Food cooked with passion and served with love tastes divine.” Trust me, it is true even today! Every food enthusiast (like you and me) is well aware that the soul of any good recipe resides in the right blend of spices and fresh natural ingredients. But we might sometimes miss upon an even more important ingredient while cooking food, and which more often than not tampers with the soul of our recipe. Yes, I am talking about food safety & hygiene. One has to be very careful while handling food and maintain the highest level of hygiene and food safety in our kitchen and home.

Food contamination can occur at any stage, be it harvesting, processing, preparation, storage or transportation. Foodborne diseases are often common where low standards of hygiene are used. According to data released by World Health Organization, every year foodborne disease causes almost one in ten people to fall ill. These diseases can be deadly especially in children.

There are a few basic rules to be followed while handling food:

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.
Cook: Cook to the right temperature.
Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.

One must wash one’s hands thoroughly with soap before coming in contact with food. This eliminates transfer of germs from your hands to the food. One must wash all vegetables and fruits with cold water before using them. Kitchen counters and surfaces are the key places which if dirty can contaminate food. These places must be sanitized thoroughly along with equipment used for preparing food.

In case you are sick or down with cold and flu you must avoid cooking and handling food. When someone has the symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting or jaundice, they should stay away from the workplace. And if they have a sore throat and fever, they should be restricted from preparing and serving food.This is alarming because these people potentially could have spread disease to the people who consume the foods their establishments were serving. Martin Bucknavage, extension food-safety specialist says,”Foodborne pathogens such as Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Shigella often are spread by sick workers to restaurant patrons through the food.” These recommendations are not just for foodservice or retail food establishments but also for people who cook for their families and those who work in child care or elder-care facilities. The use of hand sanitizers and tissue paper should be encouraged in all age groups.

Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate.

To avoid cross contamination keep raw and cooked foods separate when storing and preparing. Food should be stored in covered containers in the fridge and put raw meats and poultry in the bottom of the fridge so the juices don’t contaminate food on lower shelves. Don’t put cooked meat back on the plate the raw meat was on.

Cook: Cook to the right temperature.

If you eat poultry, seafood and meat you must be careful while cooking them. They should be cooked thoroughly at right temperatures before eating. In order to confirm, insert a skewer in the center of the meat and check that there is no pink meat. The juices must run clear. Those are the signs of well cooked meat. In case raw meat is consumed it can lead to food poisoning.

In the past few years microwaves are being used in our kitchens to cook and reheat food. You can cover your food with food wrapping paper of a good quality, which prevents the food from drying out on reheating. Make sure the reheated food is piping hot and the steam is coming out of it. This means you have eliminated the risk of bacteria and other pathogens.

Chill: Refrigerate promptly.

If you are to store your raw food in fridge, wrap it with a food wrapping paper which can absorb the moisture and prevents the dripping of juices and keep it at a temperature lower than 5 degree Celsius. You can help keep your family safe from food poisoning at home. Cold temperatures slow the growth of illness causing bacteria. So it’s important to chill food promptly and properly. Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
Healthy and hygienic food habits can avert a lot of foodborne diseases. These habits should be inculcated in your daily lifestyle and should be taught to kids as well. It’s the small steps which go a long way and make a big difference in your holistic well being.