Despite being the most technologically advanced and physically resilient food in North America, MREs, or Meals, Ready to Eat, have proven to be defenseless against theft. Army surplus stores, Amazon, eBay-do you question how MREs are obtained?
Probably not. Many MREs are being sold without authority or approval of the U.S. Government on eBay, Amazon and in surplus stores, and for a lot less than what they cost the government to buy them. Sure, buyers get a cheaper price, but what can be said about the MREs’ condition and expiry date? Do not expect any transparency from the seller-you might be purchasing three year old MREs that’ve been tossed around the back of a hot truck for the past 6 months.
This might have been true in a recent case: a former National Guard soldier at Fort McClellan stole thousands of dollars worth of MREs belonging to the Alabama Army National Guard. These MREs were purchased by the United States Government for $99.95 a case and then sold by the former soldier to Army surplus stores around the Talladega County area for less than $25 each. Even worse, an audit to further investigate MRE inventory at Fort McClellan revealed almost 1,250 MREs unaccounted for or missing. The former soldier admitted to stealing and re-selling 110 cases of MREs over the course of 2011, but what happened to the remaining 1,100 cases?
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs investigated eight MRE sellers on eBay. Six out of eight sellers offering at least four cases of military MREs were suspected to have illegally acquired said MREs. One seller admitted to taking over 60 MREs from a base dumpster, where expired and damaged cases were disposed of.
The Defense Supply Center of Philadelphia has been sending notes to many MRE sellers on eBay requesting “voluntary termination of all sales of Government Operational Ration items,” for over a decade now. They cannot, however, prevent sellers from selling potentially stolen MREs.
How can you tell if you are being sold questionable and/or potentially stolen MREs? Unless you are buying from a secure source, you can not be certain about the condition and freshness of the MREs you are purchasing. Here are four signs you should be suspicious:
1.) There’s no mention of the MREs’ date of production or expiration.
A seller won’t draw attention to a date indicating the MREs have or will soon be expired. Most “genuine military MREs” are acquired once the military has discarded them-likely because they are damaged or they have expired. A legitimate MRE retailer emphasizes the date of production because it’s a clear indicator of expected shelf life. Meal Kit Supply puts MRE freshness first and is always upfront with shelf life expectations-don’t expect them to hide the production date.
2.) The MREs are cheap. Really cheap.
Wouldn’t you lower the price of something you were trying to get rid of in a hurry? The seller might have seen the old, discarded MREs as a quick cash grab. Really low pricing distracts buyers from the condition and/or freshness-for $25, who cares? The answer is simple: you and your family in an emergency, when you are forced to eat expired and/or compromised emergency food. Don’t risk your survival to save a few bucks.
3.) Limited or no contact from the MRE seller.
You ask questions about freshness and get little or no response. A legitimate MRE retailer gets back to you in a timely manner with a detailed response. If illegal activity was involved in the acquisition of the MREs, the seller may ignore your contact request entirely. If they’re keen to sell them anyway, pay close attention to the details and make sure your B.S. radar is turned up-follow up questions are likely to stump this type of seller.
4.) Something is off.
You get a bad feeling about the seller and/or product legitimacy. Trust your gut-not the suspicious seller you and your family are relying on for an emergency food supply.