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Bad Experience with Mountain House Dinner?
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Jim Yancey
(jimyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Freeze-Dry meal off taste on 03/17/2010 21:34:40 MDT Print View

Several years ago I had a bad experiuence with a freeze-dry meal. I don't remember the brand but when we opened the package of beef stroganoff it had an "off" smell. Thinking that it may have just been an odd spice, we hydrated it anyway and let it set. When we opened the package to eat, it smelled like rotten meat! One brave soul in our group (Darwin?) took a bite and immediately spit it out. The meal had apparently spoiled, but there was no obvious breach of the packaging, nor any outward sign that the meal was unfit to eat. That put me off of packaged FD meals for quite a while. I still use them occasionally, but always inspect the packages closely before purchase and use.

It sounds like Ben's meal was probably contaminated in the factory. I would guess by chemicals used to clean or disinfect equipment. Probably inadequate flushing after routine cleaning. MH should take his report as a warning and pay closer attention to proper cleaning procedures and perhaps a bit more QA/QC!

Laurence Beck
(beckla) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Flambeau! on 03/17/2010 23:01:16 MDT Print View

You could have tossed a match in and had a flambeau!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Flambeau! on 03/17/2010 23:05:15 MDT Print View


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Flambeau! on 03/17/2010 23:28:41 MDT Print View

You could have used your meal to remove the pigment from that grand wilderness canvas, too. And had yourself a personal whiteout.

Oh my dining, oh my dining, oh my dining Turpentine!
You are lost engulfed for ether, oh my dining Turpentine!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Flambeau! on 03/18/2010 00:20:25 MDT Print View


Erik Graf
(Van-Go) - F
Re: Re: The cardboard ring on 03/19/2010 10:24:16 MDT Print View


For real - nothing like trying to twist a bag of food in which you just added a couple cups of boiling water! LOL


PS: LOVE the book!

Edited by Van-Go on 03/19/2010 10:25:00 MDT.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
The Ring on 03/19/2010 10:55:55 MDT Print View

Frankly, I'm treating my freeze-dried food as if it was immortal--if something can last four years in Southern Florida, it should last 100 in Norcal. Just last weekend I a MH with the ring, and it was fine, or, as fine as it ever was.

Justin Tremlin
(notu) - F

Locale: Central Washington
Bad Experiences. Many, Many Times. on 03/19/2010 14:42:04 MDT Print View

I’ve had many bad experiences with Mountain House and similar “camp” foods. Other than tasting bad, and giving me an upset stomach, there very expensive. They also produce large amounts of waste. I’ve personally switched to Mary Jane’s Farm organic bulk freeze-dried foods. They don’t cost as much (still a little pricey) and taste really good. I recommend the Vegetarian Chili Mac. Add a little hot chili oil and you’ll have no idea it’s vegetarian (and I’m not a vegetarian, there just that good).

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
I'll second for Mary Janes on 03/19/2010 15:37:06 MDT Print View

I second Justin's recommendation for the Mary Janes. I live less than ten miles from her farm, have visited with Mary Jane several times, and have tried most of her meals and found them to be very high quality and environmentally sound. They certainly cost more than making up your own freezer bag meals, but for the convenience, they can't be beat.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Bad Experience with Mountain House Dinner? on 03/19/2010 21:11:10 MDT Print View

I work in the food packaging industry, so let me explain what those freeze dried meals are. They cook the meals, then freeze and evaporate off much of the moisture. the food is then packaged in foil or barrier film (EVOH or some other polymer that blocks oxygen). The package is flushed with nitrogen gas to <1-3% oxygen and an oxygen scavenger sachet is thrown in. The sachet has iron particles (along with a humectant for a dry product like this) that rusts and absorbs oxygen. The package is then sealed. Foil (aluminum) is a perfect along as it is perfect.

The foil can be folded/dented and get pinholes or the seals can have leaks. The oxygen that comes in can overwhelm the scavenger sachet and result in oxidation/rancidity of fats and proteins. This can produce a range of off-flavors (cardboardy, painty, soapy, turpentine, etc.).

If the sealing and film is maintained, then the food can be good for several years. If there is a leak, then you can have a problem. The package may have looked perfect, but they call it a "pin"hole for a reason.

This can allow oxygen and moisture to come in. That will cause off-flavors. Good news...botulism only develops in anaerobic conditions.

When you want something to last more than 10 days you take a chance. When you want something to last longer than 6-12 months you take a bigger chance. You did the right thing to smell it, the other poster did a better thing to have a friend taste it!

Konrad .
(Konrad1013) - MLife
Shelf Life of an opened and repackaged freeze dried meal on 03/19/2010 21:29:37 MDT Print View

Hey Thomas, thanks for the rundown on the process. You mention that over 10 days is a risk. So, just to double check, If I were to open up a mountain house dinner, and repackage it in a ziploc bag, 10 days would be the safe timeframe I have to consume the food before running any risks?
I always repackage my freeze dried foods, since i have a reflective cozy, and find the mountainhouse packaging overly bulky. Thanks!

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Bad Experience with Mountain House Dinner? on 03/19/2010 21:53:14 MDT Print View

Hi Tom:

Thanks for the insights. I do have a few questions though...

I did not detect any of the foul smell typical of food going bad -- even after rehydrating. None at all.

The one smell was that of "benzine" -- and a strong one at that. As some of the others have pointed out, I suspect this has to do with their equipment -- and not the food itself.

Is benzine or similar part of the process -- say equipment cleaning or maintenance -- and then not cleaned out thoroughly?

Edited by ben2world on 03/19/2010 21:58:36 MDT.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Bad Experience with Mountain House Dinner? on 03/19/2010 22:18:15 MDT Print View

I have used Mountain House dinners for years and only had one that went bad. Some taste better than others, but I see that as a matter of personal preference.

How long do they last? When I got married, a friend gave me a month's supply of Viet Nam military food rations (I'm dating myself at this point). The manufacturer was Mountain House. They were much better tasting and were larger quantities than anything on the market at the time. We used almost all of them, and thoroughly enjoyed them until we had one that tasted "off". At that point we realized we'd had them for almost 10 years so we tossed the rest.

I typically try not to keep any purchased food item past its expiration date or more than about 3 years. I date them when I buy them.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Shelf Life of an opened and repackaged freeze dried meal on 03/19/2010 22:47:29 MDT Print View


As long as you keep humidity out of freeze dried foods they last fine for awhile once opened. Meat is the first to go. It definitely gets a "smell" once it starts turning (ie..sucked in moisture). Freeze dried food gets clumpy, sticky and SOUR smelling. You can't miss it!
Just make sure you tightly roll the bag up and seal for best results (tightly rolled works best it seems in not letting air in the bag).

When I have non-meat FD items? I have had them up to a year open with no issues.

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Shelf Life of an opened and repackaged freeze dried meal on 03/20/2010 00:05:20 MDT Print View

Always take comments like mine with caution. When I said 10 days, I was making a general comment about food (meat, milk, etc.). Always use your nose.

If it smells bad, it will probably taste bad, but "may not" kill you. With food that has high moisture (really water activity, but that is another discussion), then you have to be more careful). Low moisture food like cookies, crackers, freeze dried food it's probably OK. The bad bugs like moisture.

If you get cookies (dry product) in a package that is ripped open...if it's not crisp or smells bad..don't eat it, but it probabably won't kill you.