How does package food producers such as "Seeds of Change" or "Pacific Foods" package their food to keep for up to 15 months and store without refrigeration? What consumer, or DIY approach, most closely resembles their process?

It seems they use certain natural preservatives, detailed packaging materials, a food vacuum system, and perhaps a bit of drying. I'm trying to avoid canning if possible. The plastic/paper material weighs a lot less.

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    There's not really any difference between these packages, similar packing in US DoD rations (MREs) or the TastyBite brand from India, commercially canned food, and home canning in glass jars: hermetically sealed packages and high-temperature sterilization do the bulk of the work. – John Feltz Nov 29 '16 at 1:45

The commonest (in my experience - probably variable around the world) consumer DIY approach to this is the one that uses the step that you missed - high temperature (as mentioned by @John Feltz) - namely, pressure canning at 15 PSI (250°F) - in my experience, glass canning jars with metal lids, but flexible packages are evidently consumer-available more commonly that I've seen them around the world (perhaps even here, if I was looking for them.)

I've certainly eaten canned items stored at room temperature well older than 15 months and lived to tell the tale - indeed, I don't consider it anything to think about, other than verifying that the jar is, in fact, still sealed when time comes to use it. This may well not coincide with the most-paranoid recommendations on canned food shelf-life, but surely someone will be along to give the most-paranoid view shortly.

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  • Thank you! I'm trying to avoid canning if possible. The plastic/paper material weights a lot less. – user289394 Nov 29 '16 at 4:17
  • The container is irrelevant, if you can find a suitable "pouch" - the jars are the most common DIY approach in my experience (limited both by geography and not looking for an alternative) but the process of pressure canning is the same, with the same effects, largely without regard to the actual food containment part of the process. – Ecnerwal Nov 29 '16 at 20:02
  • "Retort pouches" appear to be a good search term - but few consumers/DIYs are going to foot the bill for a chamber sealer to work with those. Perhaps you're the one with deep pockets that will. – Ecnerwal Nov 29 '16 at 20:45
  • thank you! if i had the reputation, I'd vote these "up". – user289394 Nov 29 '16 at 21:07

What they are using is canning. Canning does not depend on the container being glass; canning means that you

  1. Have contents that are acidic enough to stop botulism spores from growing
  2. Seal the food hermetically, so no new contamination can come in before the package is opened for consumption
  3. Cook the food (in the container) at temperatures sufficient to kill everything inside except for botulism spores (they are very hardy, you can't get it hot enough to kill those)

If you have a plastic material which withstands the heat and pressure and seals hermetically, then you can can in it too. I am not aware of any consumer grade system which uses such material, but I have not searched for it specifically.

The only other way to preserve food for 15 months is freezing. There are no other options, unless you consider some which change the food itself (e.g. you can preserve meat by making pastrami out of it, or preserve cabbage by making sauerkraut).

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  • This answer is distinctly inaccurate. Many things, including many low acid things, are canned/preserved precisely by heating sufficiently to kill botulism spores. That is the whole point of "pressure" canning at 250F, rather than boiling-water-bath canning at 212F. scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=1307 – Ecnerwal Nov 29 '16 at 19:58

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