Vitamins can be lost from foods during processing, storage, and preparation for consumption. Certain vitamins such as thiamin and ascorbic acid are more sensitive to processing conditions than are others such as riboflavin. However, riboflavin can be lost through exposure to light, so packaging becomes important in determining storage stability.

Ration Processing Effects. Studies on tray packs have concentrated on the effects of processing and preparation for serving on the vitamins thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, and ascorbic acid (23-25). The products studied were beef stew (fortified at a level of two times the RDA per meal), sliced pork, and peas and carrots. It was found that riboflavin was stable to processing while thiamin content decreased by 53%, 68%, and 57%, respectively. Vitamin B6 also showed losses due to processing. Ascorbic acid loss from peas and carrots due to processing was 72%, whereas the fortified beef stew showed only a 20% loss of this vitamin.

Ration Storage Studies. Both the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) (based on retort pouch technology) and the Long Range Patrol (LRP) (based on freeze drying technology) have been subjected to short- and long-term storage at 4°C, 21°C, and 38°C (26). The 1973 prototype MRE was nutritionally adequate after storage at 38°C for six months and at 4 and 21°C for four years. Losses of thiamin, riboflavin, pyridoxine, vitamin A, and ascorbic acid occurred at 21 and

38°C. Niacin and carotene were stable. In the 1980 procurement MRE storage study, the indicator vitamins thiamin and ascorbic acid were followed in individual meals and/or in composites of cases containing 12 meals. Case composites showed a loss of thiamin, but after 24 mo at 38°C this loss was only 12%. Ascorbic acid showed a 50% loss from cases after 24 mo at 38°C, but no loss after 60 mo at 4°C. As with the MRE, the LRP showed good stability of thiamin at 4°C. At 21°C losses did occur, being greatest for chicken stew (39%) and beef stew (46%) over 13 years of the study.

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