How quickly should non-frozen ready-to-eat food be consumed?

In this brief guide, we will discuss the following question: “how quickly should non-frozen ready-to-eat food be consumed?” and other related queries.

How quickly should non-frozen ready-to-eat food be consumed? 

You can consume non-frozen ready-to-eat food for seven days, longer than that period you should discard them to avoid food poisoning and sickness. On the food packaging label, it is mentioned usually that the preparation date should be within seven days. 

When prepared, ready-to-eat food should be consumed within one day. However, the storage time depends on the type of food you have already prepared and the ingredients used. When prepared and not consumed, you should store the ready-to-eat food in the refrigerator within two hours.

After this time bacteria and hazardous organs might start developing and proliferating within the product thus leading to food-borne illness. Generally, ready-to-eat food is stored in a cool place where the temperature does not exceed 41 degrees Fahrenheit or five degrees Celsius. 

In the refrigerator, the quality of the food will be preserved for a longer time and no bacteria, microbes, or pathogens can proliferate within the product because processed foods and deli meats are more prone to contamination when compared to other types of food.

What factors determine how quickly the food should be consumed?

Several factors determine how quickly the food should be consumed. First of all, at what time of the day you have purchased the food is one of the factors that affect the consumption of the product. For example, if you bought a sandwich or ready-to-eat food at lunch you can not keep it for dinner.

Because leaving the food at warm temperatures will increase your risk of food poisoning and food-borne illness due to bacterial overgrowth. Also, the temperature of the product can reach the danger zone which is between 4 and 64 degrees celsius. At this point, the majority of bacteria can grow.

So, generally, food that is kept without refrigeration for two hours can have a temperature above 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the degree of moisture in the food should be taken into consideration. 

The food is moist and contains some types of sauce, which should be consumed within one hour only because bacteria can develop inside such food more than dry products. Moreover, the type of packaging and preparation plays a crucial role.

For example, canned, pasteurized juices or cheese should be consumed within fifteen minutes if left at room temperature. Regarding the cooking degree of the food, if the food is cooked and refrigerated it should be consumed within four hours. 

What is ready-to-eat food?

Ready-to-eat food is the food that can be served and consumed without the need for additional cooking or processing. Some types of ready-to-eat foods require heating while others might not require this step. Some indications should be followed to ensure the safety of such products.

Many products and items can be considered ready-to-eat foods. Baked goods such as bagels and donuts are ready-to-eat food because they do not require any cooking or heating, thus can be served and consumed directly because they have already been exposed to heat. 

Also, some animal products such as cheese, smoked fish, and ready-to-eat products. This food is already cooked or processed and then served cold, not heated. Moreover, shelf-stable food that can be stored at room temperature is considered ready-to-eat food.

Canned tuna fish, dried food such as crackers, chips, nuts, candies, and salted crackers are ready-to-eat food and are consumed as they are without the need to heat them. These products are safe for consumption because their risk of being contaminated with bacteria is very low.

What is the difference between ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food?

As previously stated, ready-to-eat food is food that can be served and consumed directly without the need for major preparations. But in some cases, this food needs to be heated in order to be safely consumed.

So, processed meats like deli meat, cheese, and some prepared sandwiches are considered ready-to-eat food. However, ready-to-cook food needs more preparation than ready-to-eat products because these foods are cooked to a certain degree and further steps should be followed to get the final result.

For example, microwavable meals, frozen pizza, frozen vegetables, and ready-to-bake cookie dough are ready-to-cook products because these products need some extra preparations to get consumable food. Also, some instructions are mentioned on the product packaging.

Moreover, make sure that the food reaches a high temperature before consumption to prevent any sickness. Because during freezing, the bacteria and the microbes are not killed but their proliferation is deactivated. When thawed and at room temperature, the bacteria will become active again.


In this brief guide, we discussed the following question: “how quickly should non-frozen ready-to-eat food be consumed?” and other related queries.


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