Having your groceries delivered can be a major time-saver, and meal kit services provide you with all the ingredients for a gourmet meal at home without having to shop for everything. But there are health risks associated with these services, which wise consumers can mitigate by taking certain precautions.
Major problems with delivered food
The biggest concern with food delivery and meal kit services is the risk of bacterial growth. Perishable food can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria when the product is not kept cold. At 40oF, it takes only two hours for microbes to begin to colonize; at 90oF, it takes only one hour. Here in Florida, with temperate weather even in the winter and very high heat and humidity the rest of the year, keeping food cool can be a challenge, especially when it is being transported.
A 2017 study by Rutgers and Tennessee State Universities tested 678 meat, seafood, game, and poultry items from meal kits and found that nearly half tested above 40oF upon delivery. There is no way of knowing how much hotter the items were throughout the shipping process.
Another major concern is contamination. It is not uncommon for contaminated foods to make it to market; frequently, lettuce is recalled for carrying E. coli. The same issues can occur in meal kit services, but these services may not be able to recall their products quickly enough, or even be aware that their meals may contain a contaminated product.
Daily Harvest lawsuits
Daily Harvest is an example of a meal kit company with a contamination issue. In 2022, hundreds of people suffered severe gastrointestinal problems from a contaminated meal containing tara flour from Peru. A Canadian-based company also faces lawsuits for the same tara flour from Peru in one of their products.
Hundreds of people were hospitalized. Some suffered liver damage, others needed their gallbladders removed from the contaminated Daily Harvest product. These people accrued tens of thousands of dollars in medical fees, and untold pain and suffering, for which they are suing and holding the meal kit company and its distributors accountable.
Taking reasonable precautions
Getting your groceries delivered? One of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself is to make sure that your cold food will remain cold. Talk to the grocer about how they package refrigerated and frozen foods for home delivery. Even produce that is not usually refrigerated should be cold-packed because of our Florida heat. Get a firm timeframe for delivery and make sure that you are home and can bring your groceries in and put them away immediately.
Using a meal kit service? Dry ice keeps items colder longer than frozen gel packs. Make sure your service uses dry ice, and if you are expecting a delivery, be home when it arrives.
Use a food thermometer that tests low temperatures to check your food when it arrives. The CDC recommends that you toss perishable food that is over 40oF, including cured, vacuum-packed, smoked, raw, and fully-cooked foods. If some items in the food kit are under 40oF and are individually wrapped, they are likely safe, but use your judgment.
Look for signs that your food has been allowed to become too warm. If it looks or smells off, don’t risk it. If you see ice crystals or frozen blood in your meat package, it has thawed and refrozen and may not be safe. If you press on the meat and it leaves an imprint without bouncing back quickly, don’t eat it.
Getting legal help
If you have been sickened by food that has been delivered to your home, you need help to fight the legal system. As an experienced personal injury lawyer, I am driven to protect the rights of injured Floridians throughout the state against big businesses and insurance companies that have the financial resources to prevent people from getting the compensation they deserve.
If you need an advocate who puts the needs of his clients first and knows how to fight the system and win, contact me at (954) 448-7288, 24/7 for a free consultation to see how I can help you.