Preparing for COVID-19 Pandemic: Food With the Longest Shelf Life

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The novel coronavirus has the potential to become a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency that deals with global public health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is saying Americans should be prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak.

The question is, however, how to prepare. First, don’t panic. Second, make a plan of what you need to have at home in case you can’t or shouldn’t go outside for a while. Some of those needed items are different foods. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends at least a two-week supply of water and food.

Foods spoil at different rates. You don’t want to stock your fridge with products that go bad after just a few days. So pick non-perishable food to store. 24/7 Tempo has assembled a representative list of examples in many categories, including some that will last for weeks and some that are virtually immortal.

Some foods have naturally long shelf lives, and if they are stored properly they will keep for months or years. Other foods spoil quickly, usually due to a high oil and/or moisture content. Such foods will last a long time only if they’re dried, canned, or otherwise preserved. There are numerous foods that spoil faster than you’d think.

In all cases, the estimated shelf life is for foods stored at room temperature or slightly cooler — not in the refrigerator or freezer, both of which will extend the lifespan of most items substantially. Evolving technology has brought many more options to the grocery store freezer, and there are a number of foods you couldn’t buy frozen 35 years ago.

Note that moisture and high temperatures will shorten the lives of most foods, and that foods tend to change over time in color, texture, and/or flavor — so while they may last for months or years, they may be at their prime somewhat earlier.