Auburn, Alabama — Meal delivery services have recently become popular among consumers to make eating at home healthier and more convenient. Meal delivery subscriptions make having a home cooked meal possible without grocery shopping or leaving the house.
Besides the obvious perks to having your dinner ingredients waiting at your doorstep weekly, there are some things to be aware of regarding food safety.
It is important to research how they prepare, package and deliver ingredients to your home. Consumers can be at risk for bacterial species such as E. coli and Salmonella if necessary precautions are not taken. “However with proper preparation of the food items, you can reduce or eliminate bacteria,” said Janet Johnson, regional agent in Food Safety and Quality with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
The risks consumers face with using food delivery services varies.
It is also important to look at the company’s delivery policy. They should make sure customers are able to receive packages in a timely manner and that the packaging can withstand the inevitable in between time of shipping and delivery.
You should know…
For food to be completely frozen is must be at or below 0 °F. If your meal arrives frozen and you properly store it upon arrival, you will experience little to no risk. When the ingredients to prepare your meal arrive they should be at least at or below 41 °F. Packaging is also important so that no cross contamination occurs. Companies should use special packaging with insulation and cooling packages to make sure food items are kept cold.
“Basically, raw meats should be held at or below 41 °F, and if they reach higher than that temperature for longer than 4 hours, you should throw them away,” said Johnson.
The rules for cold holding food are slightly more lenient. Cold food can sit out for up to 6 hours as long as you store it at or below 41 °F when the time is up. “At the end of six hours, you must discard the food,” said Johnson.
A hot meal should be at or above 135° F after preparation. If after preparing your meal to the appropriate temperature you have leftovers, “you should refrigerate them at 41 °F or lower and eat it within one to two days,” said Johnson.
Keep or Toss?
If you receive ingredients and are unsure if they have gone bad, you should throw them away.
There is no way to tell if the food is bad with pathogenic bacteria. With spoilage bacteria, like molds and yeast, you might see or smell something. Do not rely on your senses to tell you if your ingredients are safe to eat because most indicators take a long time to show themselves and are not always detectable by human senses.
“For mold, you will see it on the surface of the food and for yeast, you will notice the product will smell fermented,” said Johnson.
Overall, Johnson sees no real risk in meal delivery services as long as you receive food items in a wholesome condition. You should also consider if a subscription is cost effective for your household and if you will be happy with the type of ingredients they offer. Research the company to be sure they are authentic and reliable before subscribing to a food delivery service.
“Plus, they help to bring back the element of family meals, which is a good thing,” said Johnson.