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Military Experiments on Fruitcake (Part 1: 1981)

During the 1970s and 1980s the US military conducted a series of tests on fruitcake, the long-lasting holiday comestible. They issued at least two reports. Here’s a look at the first report:

Nutritionally Fortified Fruitcake (Thermoprocessed, Flexibly Packaged) Developed for Shuttle Flight Use,” T. Branagan, NATICK/TR-82/004, June 1981. (AD A129 878).

The report features these lyrical passages:

NASA asked Natick Laboratories to develop a contingency ration that would meet and retain 100 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and maintain consumer acceptability under ambient storage conditions for three years. NASA chose flexibly packaged fruitcake, a single food, as the approach to this ration. The desired fruitcake was to be nutritionally complete, meeting the 1968 RDA for males 22-35 years of age (700 grams supplying 2800 calories, 65 grams protein, nine vitamins and at least four minerals). The fruitcake was fortified with vitamins (A, C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine and B 1 ), calcium and magnesium….

Each acceptance test consisted of 36 untrained consumers selected at random from the 400-member NLABS Food Acceptance Panel. Samples of both fruitcakes were rated on a nine-point hedonic scale…


1. The concept of using fortified fruitcake as a single food contingency ration is sound….

4. The fortified fruitcake developed by NLABS far exceeded NASA’s high temperature stability requirements, retaining acceptability and meeting RDA nutrient requirements throughout one year’s storage at 380C….

6. Thermoprocessed flexibly packaged fruitcake, receiving a “like moderately” hedonic rating at zero time, will drop one scale point to “like slightly” after three years at 4*C and 21*C or six months at 380C. It will drop approximately two hedonic scale points to “neither like nor dislike” after 12 months at 38*C.

The following charts illustrate the “mean consumer acceptance ratings of fortified and unfortified fruitcake”:

 (Thanks to investigator Brenton R. Stone and the excellent librarians of his acquaintance for bringing this to our attention.)

In a separate blog post, we will look at the experiments done immediately subsequent to the one documented here.

BONUS SONG: “Fruitcake” by The Superions:

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