Is Your Dinner-In-a-Box Dangerous?

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on July 12, 2018 · 0 comments

Dinner in a box can sound too tempting to pass up but there is a downside to this convenience. Even though more than 8 million Americans have tried meal kit delivery, customer retention is a headache for most companies. With deeply discounted enticements on first orders, many don’t return to sign up for the ongoing service or jump from brand to brand gobbling up discount trial meals.

Most meal kits are delivered in insulated boxes, and many companies attempt to make their packaging from recycled material that is eco-friendly, but there still is a great deal of garbage after unpacking and cooking dinner. The number one complaint of customers is that food arrives spoiled, melted or inedible.

William Hallman, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University presented research on home meal kits at the 2017 Food Safety Summit. Dr. Hallman found that even though the meal kits were cold-packed, nearly half of the meals containing meat, seafood or poultry arrived at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F), making them questionable to eat safely.

Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 and 140 degree F, doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. Perishable foods left in this zone for more than two hours should be discarded. When temperatures approach 90 degree F, food should not be left out for longer than one hour. Does your meal kit sit on your doorstep for hours waiting for you to get home from work? Does the meal kit require a signature so it cannot be delivered and left unattended? Are the meals transported in a refrigerated truck? Dr. Hallman’s research found that meal kits that arrived at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F had microbial loads that were high enough to cause foodborne illness if eaten.

Bottom line: Choose the meal delivery company wisely. After you ask about the meal choices available, question the delivery and handling from their source to your home.

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