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Publication #FCS8910

Food Safety: Ready-to-Eat Foods1

Jennifer Hillan and Amarat Simonne2

Ready-to-eat fresh foods can help you save time preparing meals. But some of these foods present a high risk for foodborne illness. Here are some tips for keeping ready-to-eat foods safe.

Figure 1. 
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At the grocery store, choose ready-to-eat fresh foods that are:

  • Packaged well

  • Clean

  • Stored at the right temperature—either refrigerated or heated

At home, ready-to-eat fresh food should be:

  • Kept at the right temperature – either refrigerated or heated

  • Eaten as soon as possible

  • Dated when you open it

  • Thrown out three days after you open it

High-Risk Foods

These ready-to-eat foods have a high risk of causing foodborne illness:

  • Soft cheeses such as brie, feta, ricotta, blue-veined, and Mexican-style soft cheeses such as queso fresco (unless it is made with pasteurized milk)

  • Raw, unpasteurized milk

  • Soft-serve ice cream

  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats, cold cuts—unless they have been reheated to steaming temperatures

  • Pâtés/meat spreads—unless canned

  • Precooked chicken

  • Refrigerated smoked seafood products—unless reheated to steaming temperatures

  • Deli-type salads (such as coleslaw)

  • Pre-packed raw vegetables and mixed raw vegetable salad

  • Pre-cut fresh fruits and fruit salads



This document is FCS8910 (la versión en español de este documento es Seguridad Alimentaria: Alimentos Listos para Comer (FCS8910-Span)), one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date May 2010. Reviewed April 2016. Visit the EDIS website at


Jennifer Hillan, MSH, RD, LD/N, former ENAFS nutrition educator; Amarat Simonne, PhD, associate professor; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.