The short answer is no. The civilian MREs and the military MREs that are made for the Department of Defense are made on the same production lines at the same time. The main difference is in the packaging. DOD MREs will have specific military packaging that indicates that they are for U.S. military use and that they are not for resale. Make sure that the MREs you buy are the civilian version. It is illegal to buy or sell military MREs. So, if you have a buddy in the military that is selling MREs, tell him to stop. This became a huge problem after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The contents of the civilian version of a Full Meal MRE are:
- Main dish entrée
- Side dish
- Cracker with spread
- Dessert item
- Electrolyte beverage mix
- Coffee & Creamer
- Accessory pack with spoon, salt, pepper, wet wipe, sugar and napkin
The military versions of a Full Meal MRE will sometimes contain a small Tabasco sauce, a piece of gum or a small amount of toilet paper. Very minor differences. The food and shelf life are identical.