How Quickly Must Non-frozen Ready-to-Eat Foods be Consumed?

Non-frozen, ready-to-eat foods must be consumed within 7 days of opening.

This 7-day timeframe is based on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) guidance for food labeling. The FSIS guidance is based on the premise that most spoilage bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, with the optimum temperature for growth being between 70 °F and 90 °F.

While the 7-day timeframe is based on FSIS guidance, it is important to note that this is only a guideline. The actual shelf life of a non-frozen, ready-to-eat meal will depend on a number of factors, including the type of food, how it was processed, packaging, and storage conditions.

For example, some foods, such as dried meats and jerky, can be safely stored at room temperature for extended periods of time, while others, such as deli meats and hot dogs, must be refrigerated and consumed within days of opening.

It is also important to note that even if a food is safe to eat after the 7-day mark, it may not be of the same quality as when it was first opened. For example, the texture and flavor of dried meats and jerky may change over time, and deli meats and hot dogs may become dry and hard.

To ensure the best quality and safety, it is always best to follow the guidance on food labels and consume non-frozen, ready-to-eat foods within the recommended timeframe.

Are ready-to-eat foods good for health?

Most people are familiar with the old adage, “Cooked food is safe, but raw food is not.” This is still true today, but with the rise of prepared and packaged foods, the line between cooked and raw is becoming blurred. And more and more people are consuming ready-to-eat foods that may not have been cooked properly, or at all.

The safety of ready-to-eat foods depends on a variety of factors, including how the food was prepared, how it was packaged, and how it was stored. If you’re unsure about the safety of a particular food, the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution and throw it out.

Health risks associated with the ready-to-eat foods

One of the biggest dangers of ready-to-eat foods is the risk of food poisoning. Bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning can survive in cooked food that has not been properly cooled, stored, or reheated. This is why it’s so important to follow food safety guidelines when preparing and handling food.

Some ready-to-eat foods may also contain allergens that can cause serious reactions in people with allergies. This is another good reason to read labels carefully and to be cautious when trying new foods.

In general, ready-to-eat foods are safe to consume as long as you take some basic precautions. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before eating, and avoid eating foods that have been sitting out for a long time. If you’re unsure about the safety of food, err on the side of caution and throw it out.


The best way to avoid food poisoning is to consume non-frozen ready-to-eat foods within two hours. If you wait longer than four hours, you will put yourself at risk for food poisoning. If you’re planning to consume the food after the recommended time, it is best to wait a day or two. This is to allow the food to settle and be safe for consumption.


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