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Ready-To-Eat food: Off-the Shelf // Frozen // Canned. Which one is the safest?

With the advent of globalisation , we got exposed to a new way of life where working from our own towns/cities was no longer a privilege. We had to migrate to bigger cities in search and requirements of jobs, often international too. Along with this new normal came a problem of daily food. One cannot easily migrate to a new food culture for ever, so easily. Moreover, with frequently changing locations, intensive travel, the problem grew bigger and we started to crave for home food, more than ever.

Addressing the issue to best of their might, several companies ventured into the very space, offering regional delicacies promising convenience and longer shelf life while maintaining nutrition. For a country like our’s, where the conventional inclination is more towards fresh food, one thing is for sure, no RTE food can offer the same amount of nutrition same as our home food.

However, there are several options available that are much better than the daily food offered in our nearby “home-like” food joints, specially in metro cities. The sanitation standards of production, raw material quality, staff hygiene are some of the major bottlenecks that often prove vital. The options are specifically the “Ready-To-Eat” foods that we find in our nearby superstores today.

Within the RTE segment, we come across different kind of products such as canned (tinned) foods, Off the shelf (products that are stored at room temperature, from brands like ITC, MTR etc.), frozen (that we find in the Deep freezers) and many more.

While all these categories are clinically certified, there is a stark difference in the amounts and kind of nutrition they offer. To understand the kind of RTE products better, we need to understand their mechanism of production and preservation. Lets discuss some of the categories mentioned above.

Canned: this segment mostly offers raw fruits and vegetables. The process here is a composure of packing the food immersed in some preservative solution and sealing the same with nitrogen. FYI, nitrogen packing is safe and used in most of our daily munchies such as wafers. The composition of the solution is the key here.

Frozen: the essence of this category lies in “Temperature and atmosphere control rather than adding anything” to preserve. This can be closely compared to Ice Cream. The process requires stringent discipline and sophisticated equipment for production and storage. The nutrition and shelf life in the case is generally most similar to our home food, as the food per se, is never tampered with in terms of ingredients. However, maintaining the products in frozen state is a challenge and cost intensive

Off-the-Shelf: this is the category containing a majority of the RTE products available today. The mechanism for this segment is focussed towards “replacing water with oil”. Moisture is a key element that contributes to food decay. While cooking, the key is ensure ample oil is used that would evaporate any moisture in the food and result in longer shelf life. Much similar to the frying at home. While the process offers a lot of ease in terms packing and distribution, on the flip side, the consumer is exposed to high levels of fats and cholesterol.

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