Army Myths: MRE gum is a laxative

DONT EAT IT

There’s lots of lore surrounding MREs. One prominent myth is that the chewing gum contained in every MRE has laxative properties, presumably to counter that other myth that MREs induce constipation (a myth for another day!).

A friend of mine, another prior-service officer who did time in the 82nd actually emailed Natick, the folks who design the MREs and asked them about the gum myth. Here is their response:

Thank you for your comments and interest in the U.S. Army Natick Soldier
Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), Department of Defense
(DoD), Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD). The Combat Feeding Program has an
active interest in receiving proposals and comments pertaining to new ideas,
suggestions, innovative concepts, and products that could be of benefit to
our Warfighters.

The MREā„¢ is part of the Continuous Product Improvement process under the
Fielded Individual Ration Improvement Project (FIRIP). Feedback from
Operation Desert Shield/Storm suggested that Warfighters would consume more
if their preferences were taken into consideration. In 1993, the FIRIP was
initiated to improve the variety, acceptability, consumption and nutritional
intake of individual combat rations to enhance performance on the
battlefield. Today, all components that are put into or taken out of an MREā„¢
must first be Warfighter Recommended, Warfighter Tested, Warfighter
Approvedā„¢. From 1993 through 2013, over 260 new items have been approved and
added to menus and over 65 of the least acceptable items have been removed.

Attached is Natick PAM 30-25 Operational Rations of the DoD
http://nsrdec.natick.army.mil/media/print/OP_Rations.pdf which highlights
the entire family of fielded rations. Pages 14-16 provides the detailed
information regarding MRE individual components that you inquired about. The MREā„¢ gum does not function as a laxative.

Another myth, solved.

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The Miracle of MREs

Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, and Wheat Snack Bread. Your argument is invalid.
Peanut Butter, Strawberry Jam, and Wheat Snack Bread. Your argument is invalid.

I’ve wanted to write something about MREs for awhile. I added it to my list of things to write about sometime last year when I rejoined the Army. We’d go to the field and eat MREs and people would instantly start bitching about it. I got a little annoyed, because I remember a time when all I ate was MREs for months with few exceptions. It stopped being gross and it just became normal. It even started getting good.

Then there came this report of marines in Afghanistan who are upset that they were losing midnight chow. As an aside, I feel for them. Midnight chow was fun. I only went to midnight chow if I got back from a late-night raid and was still amped up. Or if I was going to be up late playing a marathon session of Halo at Hotel California. It was a good place to go to unwind after a mission or before facing the Covenant.

Aside over, midnight chow really isn’t a necessity. It was nice to have. Most people don’t read the article, but like to get enraged. I’ve seen posts on social media with headlines like “Obama not letting Marines in Afghanistan eat” and other such nonsense. Writing about MREs gets people worked up. It’s one of those cultural issues that gets military folk fired up because if you served in the military, you’ve probably eaten an MRE so you have an opinion. It’s the military equivalent of a social issue that gets politicized, like Vibram Five Fingers, or infidel gear. It’s silly, but fun.

That said, every good soldier out there prefers hot chow. General Ridgway considered hot chow one of the most important tools in a leader’s arsenal to keep morale high, and went to great lengths to ensure soldiers fighting in Korea received hot meals as frequently as possible.

When I go to the field, I always prefer hot chow.

All that said, MREs are getting a bad rap. Yeah, they’re not hot chow. But geez, it’s almost 1,500 calories in a neat, portable package! Oh, and it comes in over 20 different varieties! And oh by the way, you don’t have to eat them cold, because it comes with a portable heater. And coffee. With sugar and creamer.

Why, without MREs, we wouldn’t have the cracker challenge:

Or the MRE condiment challenge:

Brilliant.
Brilliant.

So everyone calm down!

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