Foods that will survive any disaster, from pandemics to the apocalypse

  • When it comes to putting together an emergency food stash, avoid things that need to be kept cold (sorry, Mochi Ice!)
  • Here’s some survival-friendly foods you can find in Hong Kong, in case of the end of the world, hiding from Godzilla or zombies
Doris Wai |

Latest Articles

British Council celebrates 75th anniversary with series of events

Apple unveils Vision Pro, its US$3,500 mixed reality headset

Hong Kong government files court injunction against protest song

Sweet meets spicy in this Thai-inspired pork recipe

Why do we dream? The science of sleep

Hong Kong Science Fair showcases power of creativity

Which foods will stand the test of time?

Memories of being stuck at home with bags of rice, instant noodles and canned sardines at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak are probably still fresh in many people’s minds.

It’s been one and a half years since the pandemic began and while the outbreak has eased, some of you may have wondered: if an apocalypse were to strike tomorrow, what are the best types of food to stockpile to get us through the end of the world?

Hot and spicy foods for the sweltering Hong Kong summer

Dr Leung Ka-sing, Adjunct Associate Professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, gave the low-down on what to consider when putting together an emergency food stash, and went through Young Post’s apocalypse supply to see which ones make the list.

We might not think too much about this, but Leung said the various ways of extending food shelf life can drastically increase our chances of riding out a catastrophe, as he took us through the science behind the theories.

“Some might have the urge to stock up their favourite Magnum Classic, but these won’t last when the power grid goes down. You should start storing survival-friendly foods that will last if you want to be smart about this,” he said.

Thank goodness you have all that Spam in your cupboard.

Leung explained food spoils mainly due to microbiological contamination and oxidation. This can degrade the food and cause changes in appearance, taste, smell, and texture.

Those changes are due to two microbes: bacteria and fungi. Some of these may cause disease and can be dangerous for your health. As such, most food preservation is focused on slowing down the growth of these microbes by removing what helps them grow: air and water.

To combat food going bad, there are different ways to go about it.

Sweet treats to cool you down this summer

The first way is to get rid of the microbes, so food can be preserved for (almost) eternity. And thankfully, we discovered the answer to that more than 200 years ago: metal canning.

“Metal canning or keeping food in glass-sealed containers are the best ways to isolate food from the environment as they act as excellent barriers to water vapour and keep microbes away,” Leung said.

“Most canned food are sterile [no living organisms are present] as they have been heated at over 120 degrees Celsius to kill any existing microbes present in the food.”

Canned food: saving lives for more than 200 years.

The second way is to keep out water, as it helps microbes grow. There are dehydrated foods such as hardtack (also known as survival bread), which is mostly made from flour and salt, and the infamous National Loaf bread eaten during the second world war, which made a comeback during Covid-19.

While dehydration is a tried-and-tested method of preserving food by removing moisture, some thought needs to be put into packaging to make sure they don’t absorb water from the environment over time. If you decide to stockpile McVitie’s biscuits, Leung suggested vacuum sealing or storing them in airtight containers to keep them dry.

Another way to help your favourite foods last longer may be keeping them at low temperature. That is, if you’ve somehow found a way to generate huge amounts of electricity after the apocalypse.

How to make Instagram’s hottest pandemic foods

“Freezing food decreases the activity of microbes and puts them to sleep. Do take note though, once the temperature rises, the microbes become active again,” Leung said.

As for the list of food that Young Post has put together, he’s given the green light to Mamee snack noodles, other instant noodles, canned beans, spam, and Calbee crisps. He also advised making sure the food packaging doesn’t break and that the foods are stored in a cool and dry environment away from sunlight.

As for squid floss, chocolate and Mochi Ice, he says it’s probably best to stuff our faces with as much of these before the apocalypse begins.

Sign up for the YP Teachers Newsletter
Get updates for teachers sent directly to your inbox
By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy