Oxygen Absorbers And Long Term Food Storage

What are Oxygen Absorbers and Why Are They Used in Long-Term Food Storage?

Oxygen Absorbers are used to remove oxygen from within a sealed environment, creating a nitrogen environment for long-term food storage. They protect dry foods from insect damage and help preserve product quality. They are used when dry foods are packaged in sealed containers. When used with proper packaging and sealing, the oxygen in the packaging is greatly reduced. Our absorbers bring the oxygen level down reliably to .01% or less.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Them?

  • Extends shelf life
  • Prevents growth of aerobic pathogens and spoilage organisms, including molds
  • Eliminates the need for additives such as BHA, BHT, sulfur dioxide, sorbates, benzoates, etc.

How Do Oxygen Absorbers Work?

Oxygen absorbers perform their action through a chemical reaction. They contain iron powder which reacts with the oxygen in the air causing the iron powder to rust. When all the iron powder has oxidized, the oxygen absorbers are "loaded" and the absorbing action stops. Remove the oxygen from an active absorber and the chemical reaction stops. Put them back in the air and the reaction starts again until the iron is gone.

What Are Oxygen Absorbers Made Of? Are They Dangerous to Come in Contact with Food?

Oxygen absorbers are small packets that contain an iron powder. The packets are made of a material that allows oxygen and moisture to enter but does not allow the iron powder to leak out. The Oxygen Absorbers are safe to place on top of the food. They will not harm the food they are in contact with as they come in a sealed pouch.

How Long Does it Take For the Oxygen Absorbers to Work?

Oxygen Absorbers become warm to the touch when they are working. They take about 4 hours to achieve their rated maximum absorption.

Do I Need Any Other Product To Remove Moisture?

Desiccants are used with food which has a high water content which can't be stored long-term very well anyway. Using desiccants is not required with dehydrated foods, at least those that we carry.

Can I Just Freeze My Food Instead To Keep It Good Long-Term?

Many customers ask if their food will last longer if placed in a freezer. Most items will last significantly longer under cooler temperatures. While dehydrated food is relatively stable under freezing conditions, still your best solution for long-term food storage is to go with an oxygen-free environment.

Is The Use Of Oxygen Absorbers Equivalent To Vacuum Packaging?

Oxygen absorbers remove oxygen more effectively than vacuum packaging. Air is about 20 percent oxygen and 80 percent nitrogen. Absorbers remove only the oxygen. The air left in the container is mostly nitrogen and will not affect the food or allow the growth of insects. Therefore, the final packaging may not have the appearance of being "vacuum-packed" because of the remaining nitrogen in the package. The only way to get a good vacuum seal inside the bag is to use a vacuum sealer.

Oxygen absorbers alone will not be able to accomplish this as they only remove oxygen, which is roughly 20% of the air inside the bag. However, the goal should be to remove the oxygen as the remaining contents of the air will not affect the long-term storage life of your food.

What Types of Food Products Can Be Stored Using Oxygen Absorbers?

Products should be low in moisture and oil content. If the moisture content is not low enough (about 10 percent or less), storing products in reduced oxygen packaging may result in botulism poisoning. All of our dehydrated products meet the 10 percent or less criteria. However, some products (for example, granola) contain nuts which because of their oil content has a shorter shelf life of up to 6 months to a year. This applies to any food that has a higher oil content, eg. brown rice vs. white rice.

To learn more about the shelf-life of the various dried foods we carry, please refer to the Information Center under Storage Life of Dried Foods