Foods that stay fresh for astonishing lengths of time

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Oct 10, 2014 by British Blog

Most people are careful to observe the 'use by' dates on shop-bought foods, as indeed they should (‘best before' dates may be a little more negotiable). As a result, most people assume that foods - presumably all foods - will go rancid and/or become inedible at some point. It turns out, however, that this may not be true. Some foods have a shelf life so long, that its end has not yet been determined. For some foods, those claims are more dubious - read on to find out more.

 

Honey

Honey is, without question, an extremely long-lived food. Archaeologists have retrieved jars of completely edible honey from ancient Egyptian tombs and while the honey may have crystallised, it needed nothing more than warmth to make it fit to spread on toast.

Honey's ability to survive millennia is due to its negligible water content, high acidity (it has a PH of between 3 and 4.5, which kills most moulds and bacteria) and the fact that it contains hydrogen peroxide. Many of the properties that make honey durable also make it useful in medical settings - honey has been used to treat a vast array of diseases for many centuries, and is still in use for such purposes today. For example, it is used in some settings to treat MRSA in wounds and ulcers.

Honey is a sugar, and some other forms of sugar tend to stay fresh for a long time as long as they are stored correctly. None, however, last as long as honey.

 

White rice

Uncooked white rice, if stored properly and out of the reach of parasites, will last indefinitely. Brown rice, in contrast, contains much more oil and goes off within a few months, however well it is kept.

Cooked rice is an entirely different matter and there are few foodstuffs more likely to induce rampant food poisoning than inappropriately re-heated white rice.

 

Hardtack crackers

Made of plain flour and water, hardtack crackers were eaten by the soldiers of the American Civil War and are known to have remained edible for decades. In other words, the crackers started out rock hard and entirely devoid of flavour, and stayed that way. They are still eaten by 'survival skills' enthusiasts today, some of whom must be heartily pleased that they can be consumed alongside another long-lived nutrient, which is...

 

Strong alcohol

Vodka, gin and rum can also last indefinitely, even after exposure to the air. Markedly tastier than hardtack crackers, spirits can also double up as a disinfectant and general cleaning fluid!

While the credentials of the foods above are established, the claims of immortality made for other foods have not been proven - yet. Some explorers claim to have eaten mammoth meat, hacked from impacted ice, but it is probably not something to be recommended. Many believe that fruitcake can last forever, and on a recent American TV show, a presenter did eat fruitcake that was around a century old. That TV presenter is still alive, but possibly due to luck more than judgement. Given that food poisoning is deeply unpleasant, it may be best to keep such things for genuine emergencies!