We all hear the phrase "long term food storage", but what does that actually mean? Lets take a look at factors that can cause food to spoil and lose its nutritional value and by understanding these enemies of food we can make sure that your food storage can last as long as possible.
Heat - Higher temperatures for either fresh or long-term food storage will result in a faster decay of the material. This is due to the fact that the enzymes which are in these foods are activated to digest the materials in higher temperatures. Further, heat is also conducive to microbial colonization, which can further speed decay.
Cold - Temperatures which are too cold will also impact the viability of food. Although the cold can effectively slow down enzyme reactions on a cellular level in order to halt decay, temperatures which are too cold will denature the food and cause it to lose nutritional value. Although this is not as large of a concern with freeze dried long-term food storage, it is still best to keep any consumables between a range of 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Air - Exposure to the air can result in a variety of issues, including decay, but also exposure to microbes including fungus and parasites. This will not only manifestly compromise the condition of the food but can also result in hidden dangers that are not visually apparent.
Oxygen - While oxygen is a component of air, its specific effect on food storage is oxidation. This is when the nutritional viability of the food is compromised on a cellular level as metabolism for decay is further sped up. The presence of oxygen also means that the environment is ideal for existing microorganisms to thrive.
Moisture - This will impact both fresh foods and long-term storage, especially since re-hydrating freeze dried foods means that they will need to be consumed immediately. Introducing moisture into the environment also makes it hospitable to microbes, and can lead to mold.
Sunlight - Direct sunlight can not only impact the temperatures at which foods are stored, but it can also denature the nutrition in these consumables. UV rays are especially harmful in breaking down certain vitamins, including B complex and C, and any light source can contribute to this happening faster.
Rodents - Even with air tight containers, rodents can pick up on the slightest hint of foods, and will gladly chew through cement and cinderblocks in order to get at it. Long-term food storage containers need to specify rodent proof in order to avoid this detriment.
Insects - While insects are also vermin, they can sometimes be easier to deter, although their presence can often be harder to detect. Even with air tight containers, it is important to make sure that it is not a recyclable grade of plastic, as this can deteriorate and let insects start nesting in the stored foods.
Microbes - Microbes are everywhere, and many are even beneficial to digestion and human function. However, it is the process of reproduction in colonizing stored foods that destroys the viability of the nutrients, and even with safe long-term storage protocols, their presence can lead to a lesser shelf life.
Time - Even the best prepared stored foods will eventually lose their use. Although this can be a factor of slow decay over time, it can also relate back to the fact that even vitamins and minerals within foods can only last for so long.