How Safe Are Subscription Meal Kits?

Online shopping is simple and convenient; you can buy products from all over the world – without leaving your own four walls. While you can buy almost everything online, grocery shopping has until recently been an exception. But that has changed now: Subscription meal kits are delivered directly to your home and all you need to do is prepare your meal by following the instructions. You no longer need to worry about shopping lists or food planning. But, there is one question: How safe are subscription meal kits?

A meal kit is a subscription service where all ingredients that you need for a home-cooked meal are delivered directly to your home. Nowadays there is a large number of providers that users can subscribe to. After signing up, the consumer can specify their preferences. They will then receive a weekly package containing the recipes and the ingredients they need to cook. As the meal kit industry is still a new player in the food supply chain, there is no strict regulation yet to ensure food safety. While there are regulations for food transportation, there is no regulation that refers to food that is delivered to the doorstep. Therefore, consumers are on their own when it comes to ensuring food safety. However, everything starts with the provider.

Many factors need to be considered to ensure product safety

Meal kit companies need to consider many factors to ensure that food being shipped remains fresh. The main factor is the perishability of the food itself. The consignor must check that the food intended for shipping is durable and will survive the journey without any loss of quality. As common shipping carriers don't take responsibility for handling perishable food, packaging material becomes crucial to ensure product safety. First and foremost, the material used should be stable and survive shipping without damage. Since many foods have to be stored refrigerated, it must be ensured that they are also cooled upon delivery. There are different cooling devices that are being used to ship groceries: Regular ice, dry ice or gel packs. The choice of cooling device depends on the food that is being shipped and the shipping distance. Another factor that needs to be considered is a clear labeling that marks the content as perishable.

Consumers should check the kit before consuming

When consumers receive the meal kit, they should check first if the package has any external damage. External damage may already be an indication that the content is also damaged. Food may have gone bad if ice packs or gel packs are completely liquid and the temperature is higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius). Therefore, you should also bring the kit into your house as soon as possible to minimize exposure to the sun. Usually you always have the chance to determine a timeframe in which you would like to receive the meal kit. Then you can make sure that you are at home.
Caution is also required when loose food is in the box. This can always be a sign of cross contamination and may lead to foodborne illness. After opening the meal kit, you should also check if all ingredients that you ordered have been delivered. Inspect the ingredients lists and check if there are any allergens that may pose problems. Although this has already been checked when ordering, a bad delivery can happen at any time.
Every meal kit comes with a couple of recipes. It is highly recommended to prepare the kit as indicated by the instructions provided. While preparing your meal, you should practice good hygiene.

Compare the suppliers before subscribing

While there were only a few suppliers a few years ago, there are now many more and the consumer has to decide which one to use. Some of the criteria you should think about are:
- Has the service had any major recalls?
- How flexible is the service?
- How do other consumers rate the service?
- Does the service offer refunds for damages boxed or spoiled food?

Many subscription meal services have strict cancellation policies. That is why you should not subscribe until you are sure that you really want to receive a meal kit every week. In many cases there are special offers to test food kits. But be careful – if you don't unsubscribe in time you will receive the kit every week and it might take some time if you will be allowed to cancel the service.

When subscribing for a meal kit it is likely that you will get delicious healthy recipes with pre-measured ingredients delivered straight to your door every week. Nevertheless, you should inform yourself in advance to take no risk in the end.