The nation's Warfighters can look forward to numerous new food items and improvements in the next version of MREs, which were recently approved and will go into production in 2008.
The new items and replacements are the result of extensive evaluations with the very people who will be eating the meals: the nation's Warfighters. Thirty-eight new items were evaluated last September by approximately 400 Soldiers at Fort Greeley, Alaska.
According to Judy Aylward, a CFD senior food technologist and project officer for the Fielded Individual Ration Improvement Program, new items must receive a score of 6 or higher on a quality scale of 1 to 9 (with 1 being extremely disliked and 9 being extremely liked) to be included in the annual field evaluation.
Results from the field evaluations, combined with recommendations by Natick Soldier Center scientists, were presented for approval to the Joint Service Operational Rations Forum in February.
Aylward said she has noticed changes in Warfighter preferences.
"We have seen a trend in the past several years that the Warfighters tend to like ethnic foods, sandwich-type items and eat-on-the-move snack items. They also are more health conscious and read the food labels,” Aylward said. “All MRE items have the Food and Drug Administration food label, which includes nutritional information and ingredients."
The following items were approved to be included in MREs:
- Granola with blueberries or strawberries
- Instant vanilla or chocolate pudding
- Toaster pastries – chocolate chip or French toast
- Chipotle snack bread
- Chocletto's candy (chocolate toffee candy)
- Twizzler Nibs (small red licorice candy)
- Chocolate-covered coffee beans
- Patriotic cookies (sugar cookie with flags/Soldiers imprinted on surface)
- Cheez-Its, hot and spicy
- Irish Cream flavored coffee
- Banana strawberry dairy shake
- Salsa verde (condiment)
- Butter Buds
- Splenda (sugar substitute)
Some items from previous editions of the MRE will be replaced. Chicken pesto pasta will replace the chicken with cavetelli. Lasagna with vegetables, a vegetarian meal, will replace the vegetarian manicotti.
CFD also tries to include commercial-off-the-shelf products in MREs when possible.
"Name brand recognition provides a little bit of home to the Warfighter, which especially helps to improve morale," said Aylward.
MREs were developed by the DoD Combat Feeding Directorate, part of the Natick Solider Center, in the early 1980s. The CFD has since worked continuously to update the meals to provide optimum nutrition, improve taste, and to reflect the current preferences of servicemen and women.
The meals meet the Office of the Surgeon General's nutritional requirements and are packaged to withstand airdrop, rough handling and temperature extremes. Items included in the MRE must be shelf stable for three years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit and six months at 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to Aylward, the next version of the MRE will go into production in 2008 and will be available in the field by 2009 or 2010.