Consumer storage practices for refrigerated ready-to-eat foods: Results of a web-enabled survey
Proper storage of refrigerated ready-to-eat (RTE) foods by consumers can reduce their risk of listeriosis and other foodborne illnesses. To characterize consumer storage practices for refrigerated RTE foods, we conducted a nationally representative Web-enabled survey of pregnant women, seniors, and the remaining population. The survey collected information on refrigerator storage time for smoked seafood, cooked crustaceans, bagged salads, precut fresh produce, soft cheeses, frankfurters, deli/luncheon meats, and deli salads. We found that improvements are most warranted in consumers’ storage practices for soft cheeses, deli/luncheon meats, and deli salads. Relatively less-educated individuals were more likely to follow the recommended storage time guidelines for freshly sliced deli meats and soft cheeses compared with individuals with more education. Also, there were regional differences in storage practices for some foods. Consumers’ failure to store some RTE foods safely may be caused by their unawareness of government-recommended storage time guidelines. Educators can use the survey findings to characterize consumers’ storage practices for RTE foods and to target educational efforts. Additionally, risk assessors can use the survey data to evaluate the exposure potential and health risks associated with L. monocytogenes.