USDA Food Longevity Guidelines

It is fairly difficult to find consistent information on food storage guidelines, particularly from the perspective of someone preparing for a true catastrophe.

As a start, the table below provides the estimated shelf life for common food items - this information was provided by the US Department of Agriculture.

Keep in mind, food longevity is highly variable. A cool, dry environment can have a much different affect on food than a hot, damp environment. Also, storage longevity will depend on the type of food being stored, its packaging and the storage method. Although the USDA's table below doesn't provide this information, some properly packaged and stored foods - like salt and honey - will last indefinitely.

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FOODSTORAGE ON SHELFSTORAGE AFTER OPENING
Canned ham (shelf-stable)2 to 5 years3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
Low-acid canned goods. Examples: canned meat and poultry, stews, soups (except tomato), spaghetti (noodle and pasta) products, potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, peas, and pumpkin.2 to 5 years3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
High-acid canned goods. Examples: juices (tomato, orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit); tomatoes; grapefruit, pineapple, apples and apple products, mixed fruit, peaches, pears, plums, all berries, pickles, sauerkraut, and foods treated with vinegar-based sauces or dressings like German potato salad and sauerbraten.12 to 18 months5 to 7 days in the refrigerator
Home canned foods12 months. Before using, boil 10 minutes for high-acid foods; 20 minutes for low-acid foods.3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
Jerky, commercially packaged12 monthsN/A
Jerky, home-dried1 to 2 monthsN/A
Hard/dry sausage6 weeks in pantry3 weeks refrigerated, or until it no longer smells or tastes good.
USDA Dried Egg MixStore below 50 °F, preferably refrigerated, for 12 to 15 months.Refrigerate after opening. Use within 7 to 10 days. Use reconstituted egg mix immediately or refrigerate and use within 1 hour.
Dried egg whitesUnopened dried egg products and egg white solids can be stored at room temperature as long as they are kept cool and dry. After opening, store in the refrigerator.Refrigeration is not required unless reconstituted.
MRE's (Meal, Ready to Eat)120 °F, 1 month
100 °F, 1 1/2 years
90 °F, 2 1/2 years
80 °F, 4 years
70 °F, 4 1/2 years
60 °F, 7 years
Refrigeration will increase the shelf-stable storage times.
Tuna and other seafood in retort pouches18 months3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
Meat or poultry products in retort pouchesUse manufacturer's recommendation on the package.3 to 4 days in the refrigerator
Rice and dried pasta2 yearsAfter cooking, 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator


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