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Practices -- Storage

Do you need to use oxygen absorbers when storing powdered eggs and butter powder?

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Powdered eggs and butter powder are dried to extend their shelf life. These products, when properly stored, usually last for about 12 months. After that, the quality of the product can decrease. The best way to store these products is in a food-grade plastic container, tightly covered, and in a cool, dry area. Many companies are advertising the use of oxygen absorbers as a means to protect packaged food. The absorbers can be expensive - 150 for $20.00 for limited absorption to 16 for $28.00 for maximum oxygen absorption. Thus are they necessary for storing food safely? Probably not. Oxygen can cause spoilage, mold growth, color changes, rancidity, and loss of nutritive values in foods. Exposure to oxygen itself does not make food unsafe to eat. It simply causes quality changes. Powdered eggs and butter are dry enough to prevent the growth of harmful and spoilage microorganisms, including mold. Therefore, the key to storing them safely is to keep them dry. However both products are high in fat and so might be prone to oxidative rancidity during storage. One does not need oxygen absorbers to minimize the oxidative reactions. Temperature increases the rate of these reactions, so keep the food cool (50 to 70 degrees F). Increased surface area increases the rate of these reactions so package in a food-grade covered container to minimize surface area. Foods with a low-water activity tend to have slow oxidative reaction rates so keep these foods dry. Basically, tell consumers to use standard food storage guidelines to keep food safe and high quality.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, NC State University in July 2004

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