Tastier MRE: Chemistry gives battlefield chow a gourmet flare

May 5, 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: Octopus and kin inspire new camouflage strategies for military applications

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

Related Stories

Recalls, food worries spark booming business in food safety

December 2, 2009

Recalls of ground beef, peanut butter, and other foods have done more than raise public awareness and concern about food safety. They also are quietly fueling a boom in the market for food testing equipment and fostering ...

Food for thought: delivering the promise of food processing

January 4, 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

January 4, 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

How does oxygen get into a fuel cell?

March 28, 2017

In order for a fuel cell to work, it needs an oxidizing agent. TU Wien has now found a way to explain why oxygen does not always enter fuel cells effectively, rendering them unusable.

Zika virus protein mapped to speed search for cure

March 27, 2017

A study published today shows how Indiana University scientists are speeding the path to new treatments for the Zika virus, an infectious disease linked to birth defects in infants in South and Central America and the United ...

Researchers link orphan receptor to opioid-induced itching

March 27, 2017

Opioids have long been an important tool in the world of pain management, but the side effects of these drugs - from addiction and respiratory failure to severe itching and dizziness, can be overwhelming. Scientists have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.