Tastier MRE: Chemistry gives battlefield chow a gourmet flare

May 05, 2010

The portable packages of food called the Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE) that sustain military personnel in combat or field conditions without regular food facilities are getting tastier and more sophisticated thanks to innovations in food technology. That's the focus of an article in Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Senior Editor Bethany Halford notes that the forerunners to today's MREs, known as C Rations, consisted of simple ingredients like beans and franks or ham slices in little green cans. One former soldier described the meals as "big wads of grease." By contrast, today's MRE contains a main course like ravioli, bread, moist lemon poppyseed cake for dessert, a packet of instant coffee or other powdered beverage, and a flameless heater. Instead of cans, modern field rations come in tough pouches that can withstand heavy downpours and endure helicopter air-drops.

Scientists have devoted years to developing the modern MRE, which must meet a strict set of criteria, including a prolonged shelf life ranging from months to even years. MRE packaging now contains protective layers, composed of foil and other materials, which block out oxygen, water vapor, and light to keep from spoiling. Scientists are currently testing improved packaging materials, advanced sterilization techniques, and better ways to heat foods. Who knows, of the future may even find that MRE with crab cakes in sweet pepper aioli and finish up with a lemon curd napoleon.

Explore further: Essential oils may provide good source of food preservation

More information: "The Science of Feeding Soldiers", pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8818sci2.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Food for thought: delivering the promise of food processing

Jan 04, 2008

Humans have transformed raw ingredients into food since prehistoric times. But scientists are still looking for new ways to make food taste better and survive longer. Presenting their findings at a recent European Science ...

Food for thought: delivering the promise of food processing

Jan 04, 2008

Humans have transformed raw ingredients into food since prehistoric times. But scientists are still looking for new ways to make food taste better and survive longer. Presenting their findings at a recent European Science ...

Recommended for you

Chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

Jul 21, 2014

The yield so far is small, but chemists at the University of Oregon have developed a low-energy, solution-based mineral substitution process to make a precursor to transparent thin films that could find use ...

Essential oils may provide good source of food preservation

Jul 21, 2014

A new study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), found that essential oils may be able to be used as food preservatives in packaging to help extend the shelf-life of foo ...

User comments : 0