Stored food should be regularly rotated if you are serious about using it to feed your family in an emergency, says a Utah State University Extension food scientist.

Charlotte Brennand said the USU Department of Nutrition and Foods Sciences recently tested a cache of cracked wheat, whole wheat flour and wheat grains that had been stored for 17 years in a basement and found bread made from these foodstuffs unsatisfactory.She said the wheat still was edible, but its quality had diminished. When compared to new wheat, bread made from the freshly ground old wheat tended to rise less, produced loaves about three-fourths the normal size and tasted stale.

The flavor of bread made from the stored whole wheat flour tended to be rancid.

"Wheat stores better as intact kernels than as cracked ground products, since the living grain has some biological protection against many of the undesirable changes that occur during storage," Brennand said.

"However, in this case the grain was not alive. The 17-year-old wheat did not sprout in germination tests."

There are great variations in storage life, she said. "We ran the same germination tests on a batch of 17-year-old wheat and found that 84 percent of the grains sprouted. The 17-year-old wheat may have been of poor quality to begin with since it contained many broken grains."

She said the tests show it is possible to bake bread from and eat 17-year-old grain, "but it is not recommended."