Thursday, May 18, 2017

Emergency Rations Test #1: The Survival Tabs

The first test is done! This week I will be discussing The Survival Tabs (TST). I tested these the same way I am testing all of the various emergency rations, by using them to replace a meal or two during my spring hectic period at work. I'm out in a field or driving a truck for 12-14 hours a day (when it's not raining) and have to pack a lunch anyway, so this is an easy test for me.

For the full hype, visit their web site or read the pamphlet enclosed with the tabs when you buy them. Here's a synopsis:
  • TST was developed back in the 1970s for NASA.
  • They contain 100% of the recommended daily allowance of 15 vitamins and minerals, with an emphasis on the B vitamins.
  • They have a 25 year shelf-life.
  • Gluten free and non-GMO.
  • Lightweight and easy to carry.

I've seen these advertised for years and have been looking forward to trying them out, so when I got a chance to get some through Amazon I took it. An eight-day supply of food for $24.95, with free shipping outside of Amazon Prime (they send them USPS), breaks down to $3.12 per day - less than the cost of a cheeseburger at most places. I expected to get a mix of the four flavors that they make, but they must have been out of chocolate because I only got the vanilla, butterscotch, and strawberry.

The tabs came in resealable foil pouches with 12 tabs per pouch. The instructions were to “eat” one tab every hour for 12 hours to get what you need for a day. I do like the resealable pouch for something that contains food meant to be consumed over a period of time; it keeps bugs and dirt out of my food.

Here's the back of a package (from their website)

As you can see, a day's worth of TST (12 tabs) only provides 240 calories. That's great if you're trying to lose weight, but nowhere near enough to sustain an active adult. They claim a person could live for a month or more on nothing but their tabs... which isn't saying a whole lot, since you can survive about three weeks without any food at all. This was the first indication that these were a poor choice.

They mention that their tabs provide enough nutrients to maintain “dexterity, stamina, and coordination”, but fail to mention mobility and strength. When you consider that they were developed for a space program where the astronauts were crammed into a capsule about the size of a VW Beetle for a mission that lasted about two weeks, having a food supply that was totally absorbed and created little to no solid waste was a major plus. Working in micro-gravity, or on the moon, would require fewer calories than doing the same work on Earth, so having roughly 10% of a normal daily caloric intake wouldn't be as much of a problem. The emphasis on the B vitamins is similar to the energy drinks you'll find on store shelves, as they give you a boost in energy similar to caffeine.

Here's what the tabs look like, with a quarter in the center for scale. I turned one of them on edge so you could get an idea of how thick they are. Given their size and shape, I think that packaging them in a tube would save space over the pouch.

The tabs were disappointing on several levels:
  • They are not filling. "Low volume" means that your stomach is still going to be mostly empty after eating them, which means they lack the morale-boosting potential of most emergency rations.
  • The milk solids base may provide protein, but it also has the coating effect of milk on your mouth and throat. While not exactly thirst-provoking, they do require water to wash the film of milk out of your mouth.
  • The residue tends to stick to dental work. I have fillings and felt like I needed to brush my teeth after chewing one of these.
  • The flavor marked on the bag is meaningless. The milk solids overpower any attempt they may have made to add flavor, with the strawberry being the only one I could taste at all. Think of a dry, weak milkshake and you'll get the idea.
  • The manufacturer is unknown. “Distributed by” does not mean “Made by”, and I like to know where my food, especially emergency food, comes from. I don't trust food from certain foreign countries due to bad experiences and food poisoning in the past.

  • This product may have a place on the shelf of a bomb shelter or other sealed space where toilet facilities are limited, but for the everyday prepper they're almost worthless. 
  • The 25-year shelf-life is a plus, since most emergency rations only tout a five-year shelf-life. 
  • If you are even the least bit lactose intolerant, avoid these for the obvious reason that they are almost all milk solids.
I mentioned in my previous post that nutritional deficiencies take weeks or months to develop in a person that has been eating a balanced diet, so give these tabs a pass and spend the money on a bottle of quality multi-vitamins instead. 

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