Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, HelloFresh, Plated… you’ve probably seen someone create a meal outside their usual Monday through Friday list using that box of groceries delivered to their door.  Or perhaps you have seen the photo of the excessively packaged organic egg. Or considered signing up, until you saw the price tag.  I have a coupon sitting on my desk, right now, for something called SunBasket. There are some great reasons to try a meal kit.  New ideas, a bit of a timesaver, add some variety into your diet, or teach a teenager to cook.

However.  There are substantial reasons to be cautious– will that shrimp pad thai be delicious or give you diarrhea?  Unfortunately, some researchers ordered over 150 meal kits and have found reason to worry.  A recent test found that nearly half of the meal kits ordered had temperatures over 40 degrees F.  Those using gel packs had temperatures up to 75 degrees F! It’s cooler on my doorstep, right now, than in those meal kits.

What does that mean?  Hello, GI distress. This temperature meals that bacteria is growing quickly on your food and more bacteria means more risk of illness.  If it’s pathogenic bacteria, that’s bad for your GI system (and maybe more).  It’s very, very bad if you are under age 5, an older adult, pregnant, or have another illness that affects your immune system.

What can you do?

  1. Ask about the type of ice pack.  Dry ice is most effective, but at the least, avoid gel packs. You might have to call– SunBasket doesn’t specify.  Pick up that phone.
  2. Try to be home on the days the kits are delivered– at least off and on so you can bring them inside promptly.
  3. Check temperatures with a thermometer. (Look for my next post about thermometers.)
  4. If food is over 40 degrees F, time to throw out or compost.  You have no idea if it has been breeding bacteria quickly for 10 minutes or 6 hours.  Call and report to the company*.
  5. Order in the winter.  Trucks, the doorstep, storage facilities– all likely to be cooler.
  6. Really, really love your meal kits?  Dedicate a large cooler for your packages and train your delivery people to put them in there.  Say it’s to keep the rain and neighborhood cats out. Or your own dog.

Whichever way you cook, enjoy and be safe!  Come back next week for chat about thermometers.  I’m a little in love with mine.

*This step might not do you, personally, any good.  Neither companies nor shippers will take responsibility for temperatures in transit. However, if enough calls build up, kit packaging and temperature control will improve.  Some companies are doing better– so it’s possible.