Nutrients are of no value unless consumed, and military experience has shown that troops will not necessarily eat "enough of anything" if they are hungry enough. At the least, unpalatable food is not a morale booster and can add to combat stress. The properties that make food desirable to eat—flavor, texture, odor, color and appearance—are sensory. Preservation to retain food wholesomeness over extended periods cannot be expected to improve these characteristics. A goal of food processing and preservation technology is to provide efficient, practicable preservation techniques that do minimal damage to initial food properties.

Consumer attitudes complicate acceptability problems. The people in the military services have generally formed their food habits, including likes and dislikes, before induction. Individual differences, changing food preferences, need to appeal to persons under extreme physical and emotional stress, for whom food may be the only break from the unpleasantness, discomfort, and monotony of fighting, are also part of the problem. So is the inherent American habit of griping about institutional foods.

Acceptability presents a major challenge to operational ration design. Capability of achieving it continues to challenge food science and technology.

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