How Long Do MREs Last? The Ultimate Guide (2022)

How long do MREs last? This is a question that many people have, and it’s a valid one. After all, MREs (or Meals, Ready to Eat) are not your average food item. They are designed for military use, so how long they last in civilian life is an important question. 

In this guide, we will answer that question and more. We’ll discuss what MREs are, how long they last, how to tell if an MRE has expired, and more!

How Long Do MREs Last

What are MREs? 

To put it simply, an MRE is a ready-to-eat meal. The U.S. Department of Defense provides its service personnel with a lightweight, portable meal self-contained, shelf-stable, and rationed for use in the field. 

MREs are a lifesaver in situations when ordinary food is unavailable, such as on the battlefield. Even though it was designed for the military, it may be distributed to the general public in the event of a catastrophe.

MREs are gaining favor as disaster supplies. These are supplied in lightweight, sealed containers designed for military usage that can withstand hard drops and other impacts. When stored properly, these ready-to-eat meals may last for months. T

hey are great to have on hand in the event of a natural disaster or other catastrophes or to keep in the trunk of your car in case of a breakdown on the highway. Since MREs don’t go bad if they’re not kept cold, stocking up on them in large quantities is a brilliant idea.

How long do MREs last?

Although MREs are designed to withstand harsh environments, they are not indestructible. An accidental rip might make one of the packets inedible, despite how simple they are to open. Most importantly, the shelf life of an MRE depends heavily on the temperature at which it is stored.

An MRE has a five-year shelf life at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, during this period, the military rotates and replenishes its MRE supply. This, however, is only true provided the storage temperature is maintained at 75 degrees Fahrenheit at all times during the five years.

The shelf life of an MRE decreases with increased temperature, whereas it may be prolonged by storing it at a lower temperature. Some MREs have a shelf life of up to 10 years if maintained in a continuously cooler environment, while others won’t survive more than a month if stored at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

There are charts available that estimate how long an MRE will survive at specific temperatures. Watch out for old schematics that don’t reflect the standards used to make MREs nowadays. 

Remember that an MRE discovered in storage circumstances of 75° F will not be valid for five years if it was previously stored in conditions closer to 90° F.

Red “Expired” stamp on the date of manufacture.

Unlike other packaged foods, MREs do not have a printed expiry date. Since the shelf life of MREs varies depending on the storage temperature, the production date is printed on the packaging instead.

A day-month-year format would determine whether your MRE is still valid, but this is not the case. A thorough search of your bag may reveal many distinct symbols and digits. Not helping matters is the fact that the manufacturing date might be located in various places.

The lot number is one of the possible codes, but it isn’t the one you’re looking for. Instead, a four-digit PIN is required. There may be a letter after the expiry date on certain MREs, although this is less important.

The manufacturer code comprises two distinct pieces despite appearing as a single number.

If you make several MRE purchases, it is essential to keep track of the years you made those purchases. Otherwise, you may be confused about which goods are still usable and which have passed their expiration date.

A stack of MRE containers serving as a time-temperature indicator

A stack of MRE containers serving as a time-temperature indicator

Indicators of freshness are included in the packages of certain MREs. The temperature history of the MRE package is shown in a visual indicator that changes in meaning depending on the current temperature. If the inner circle has a lighter shade than the outside ring, the contents are likely still edible.

When Will an MRE Expire?

The question of “How long do MREs last?” is not quickly answered by looking at the average expiry date due to the wide variety of factors that might affect an MRE (if you can call that process simple at all). Predicted expiry dates for MREs may be less stringent than actual deterioration.

Evaluations of how long the food is still edible and how it tastes over time led to the norm of an MRE lasting an average of five years.

Just like the flavor of canned goods, an MRE’s quality will decrease with time in storage. The food’s nutrient content will decrease as a result. However, just because an MRE has beyond its “use by” date doesn’t imply it’s completely worthless. 

Many people who have eaten MREs say they can consume ones that are ten or even twenty years old; however, the flavor isn’t great.

When Will an MRE Expire

Since MREs are meant to be eaten in a pinch, they probably won’t be enjoyed for their flavor. Although its vitamin and mineral content may decrease with age, an MRE can still supply enough calories to get by in a pinch.


Can you still eat an old MRE?

Yes, you may still consume MREs that have passed their expiration date. To be avoided until necessary, however. Also, check the container and the product for physical damage before eating it. Do not consume the food if it is in a bad state or if it no longer looks or smells appetizing.

What will happen to you if you consume an MRE beyond its expiration date?

Generally speaking, eating stale MREs won’t hurt you. They are durable; therefore, there is less chance of food poisoning. However, although the safety of expired MREs is sometimes questioned, there is no evidence that they become unsafe to eat. However, if it was subjected to environmental factors like heat and humidity, the results may differ for each individual.

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