Oxygen Absorbing Packets: What Are They and What Do They Do?

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Oxygen Absorbing Packets: What Are They and What Do They Do?

If you are anything like me, and I think you are, you love snacks. Specifically, you love beef jerky and will get it in any kind you can get your hands on. So when you’re diving through that package of beef jerky and you find that white package at or near the bottom, at first you don’t think “Hey I want to eat this”, despite the three thousand warning labels for you not to ingest it. Your first question is, “What is this?”

What you have found there isn’t the prize in a Cracker-Jack Box, it’s an oxygen absorbing packet.

What are oxygen absorbers and why are the used in longer-term food storage?

Oxygen absorbers are used to remove the oxygen from a sealed environment, creating a nitrogen-rich environment where long-term food storage is possible. This protects dry foods from insect damage and helps you to preserve the product quality. These oxygen absorbers are used when dry foods are packaged in sealed containers. When you properly package and seal the package, the oxygen is greatly reduced. Absorbers bring the oxygen level down to a reliable .01% or less.

What are the benefits of using oxygen absorbers?

  • Extends the shelf life of your product
  • Prevents the growth of aerobic pathogens and spoilage organisms, including molds
  • Eliminates the needs for non-natural additives such as BHA, BHT, sulfur dioxide, sorbates, benzoates, etc.
  • FDA compliant

How do oxygen absorbers work?

Oxygen absorbers work through a chemical reaction. The primary ingredient is an iron powder that reacts with the oxygen in the air causing the iron powder to rust. When all the iron powder has oxidized, the oxygen absorbers are now called “loaded” and then the process of absorbing the oxygen stops. 

What are oxygen absorbers made of? Are they dangerous if they come in contact with food?

Oxygen absorbers are small packets that contain an iron powder. The packets are made of a specific material that allows oxygen and moisture to enter but does not allow the powder to leach out. 

How long does it take for the oxygen absorbers to work?

You will know that the oxygen sbsorbers are working as they become warm to the touch. Typically, they take about 4 hours to achieve their rated maximum absorption. That’s a very good thing, as you don’t want any organism to live with your dry packed goods.

Can I just freeze my food instead to keep it good for the long-term?

Some customers ask if they can just freeze their foods to make them last longer. Most items will last significantly longer under cooler temperatures. While dehydrated or dry foods are fairly stable under freezing conditions, still your best solution for long-term food storage is to go with an oxygen-free environment. After all, who has the freezer space for eight 5-gallon buckets of red wheat?

Is the use of oxygen absorbers the equivalent to vacuum packaging?

Technically oxygen absorbers remove oxygen more effectively than vacuum packaging. The air composition is around 20 percent oxygen and 80 percent nitrogen. Absorbers remove only the oxygen. This results in the air left in the container being mostly nitrogen and will not affect the food or allow the growth of insects. So, while the visual of a vacuum packed product can be appealing – the goal should be to remove the oxygen as the remaining contents of the air will not affect the long-term storage life of your food.

What types of food products can be stored using oxygen absorbers?

The products that you choose should be low in moisture and oil content. If your moisture content is not low enough (about 10 percent or less), storing products in reduced oxygen packaging may result in botulism poisoning. All of our dehydrated products meet the 10 percent or fewer criteria. However, some of our products (for example, granola) contain nuts which have a high oil content and as a result have a shorter shelf life of about 6 months to a year.  This applies to any food that has a higher oil content like brown rice vs. white rice.

How many oxygen absorbers should I use?

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