Food Safety: Ready-to-Eat Foods1

Jennifer Hillan and Amarat Simonne 2

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. 
Figure 1. 
Credit: Hemera

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


1. 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
2. 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.

Publication #FCS8910

Date: 2016-04-19
Simonne, Amarat

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  • Amarat Simonne