Rising Income and migrating population for jobs have given rise to the consumption of Ready-To-Eat (RTE) products. Ready-to-eat products have resulted in reduced cooking time, offering convenience to the consumers. Rising dual income in families, rise in population of working women, busy work schedules and changing lifestyle have resulted in increased consumption of ready-to-eat products.
These products are made in such a way that can be consumed directly or after heating. Moreover, the convenience of carrying ready-to-eat products while traveling is also making them popular among consumers. Companies are also increasingly involved in manufacturing ready-to-eat products with the radical transformation in the concept of food. However, the rising shift towards healthier lifestyle may restrict the growth of ready-to-eat products. According to some health studies and research, ready-to-eat products consist of chemical preservatives used to keep them fresh, hence it can impact health causing high blood pressure, heart problems, liver and kidney problems, etc.
Is it safe to consume ready-to-eat food products?
Various research and study are being published on whether it is safe to consume ready-to-eat products. However, Listeria is a big concern among ready-to-eat product manufacturers. RTE food is said to be the prime source of listeria. According to the data from FSA, in 2016, 11 RTE food products, including fish and dairy products were recalled relating to high Listeria count. Listeria is bacteria that cause foodborne disease with gastrointestinal symptoms. Despite the technological advancements in the food industry, the presence of listeria is still the biggest concern in RTE food products.
Listeria microbes are highly resistant to many food practices, moreover, they thrive and multiply under refrigeration. Hence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration drafted new guidelines for RTE food product manufacturers. These guidelines provide complete advice and step-by-step protocols for preventing contamination of RTE food products. it also offers detailed actions to be followed by RTE food producers. The guidelines also suggest regular testing of RTE food products to identify the presence of microbial.
Various tests are also being released to ensure the safety of RTE food products. For instance, companies are offering food safety testing solutions that allow RTE food manufacturers to get test results including freshness and product quality.
A recent research conducted by California State University Northridge shows the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in many ready-to-eat food products including dairy products and fresh produce. It also shows that around 2 million people were infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the U.S. Among dairy products, yogurt was found to have the highest amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. While organic and conventional produce were having 10,000 times more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Hence, RTE foods are considered as the major source of human exposure to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Manufacturers are also using Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Point System (HACCP). It’s a process control system that helps in identifying the risk that might occur in food production process. It also helps in identifying chemical and microbiological contaminants in food.