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Oxygen absorbers and desiccants are two main keys to keeping your emergency food storage fresh and dry for longer periods of time.
Filling food storage containers with grain or other bulk dry foods, and then immediately sealing it will not lock out excess oxygen or prevent moisture from accumulating. There is enough moisture and oxygen between food particles to cause problems over time.
Using an oxygen absorber and/or a desiccant packet can help solve these two issues, especially with long term food storage.
Oxygen absorbers - are made of a chemical compound, the active ingredient is a powdered iron oxide. While they are not edible, they are not toxic, and the oxygen does NOT remove the fresh smell and taste of the product.
When used with proper packaging and sealing, the oxygen in the packaging is greatly reduced therefore extending the shelf-life of the food.
Oxygen absorbers utilize rapid activation. The oxygen absorbers start working within minutes of the package being opened. When packaging food for long-term storage, manufacturers recommend that you use the entire contents of the sealed bag of oxygen packets within 15 minutes.
A Desiccant - is a substance, such as calcium oxide or silica gel, it comes in a small sealed packet that absorbs moisture and is used as a drying agent.
Desiccants sealed in your food storage containers are intended for moderating shifts in moisture levels, not for lowering the moisture content of the foods. If the food you want to store is too high in moisture for good storage, this needs to be dealt with BEFORE you seal the packaging.
Be sure you purchase a desiccant that is designed for food storage it will usually be pre-packaged for use.
Desiccants are NOT edible, so make sure you have them properly packaged before using them with food. If the desiccant accidentally opens and mixes with your food - throw it all away.
If you'll be using oxygen absorbers in the same container along with desiccants, it is best to place the desiccant on the bottom of the container and the oxygen absorber on the top. This is to keep the desiccants from taking needed moisture from your oxygen absorbers which will hinder their operation.
Keeping opened packages from exposed air
Desiccants and oxygen absorbers perform different functions, but they are used in a similar way. They both begin to adsorb their targets (moisture and oxygen), as soon as they are exposed to them. Once you open up the original packaging do not keep either of them exposed in the open air for more than fifteen minutes.
When desiccants are used in powdered food items (salt, sugar, flour, etc.) it can cause the food to become rock hard. Most manufactures will tell you to - store bulk dry foods & powdered goods in Mylar bags, then there is no need for desiccants - the oxygen absorbers are all you need.
The extra protection of a Mylar bag inside of a bucket is the best protection for all stored foods including powdered foods.
Using desiccants for moisture concerns
If you do find you require the use of desiccants in your food storage because of moisture concerns, the best usage of a desiccant is to seal your food storage containers during the driest time of the year when humidity is lowest.
Oxygen Absorbers and Desiccants, when used where recommended, can make a huge difference in the quality and shelf life of your emergency food storage.