page provides a text alternative for an article in the Winter/Spring
2007 issue (PDF Only, 5.4MB).
Read Labels to Reduce Risk of Getting Sick
By Keith Payne
What's the difference between "ready-to-eat" and "ready-to-cook"?
An enormous one if you're not careful, which is why USDA recommends
that you read all food product labels very carefully.
"Ready-to-eat" means just what it says — the food does not require
cooking or any additional preparation by the consumer before it's
Phrases such as "cook and serve," "ready to cook" and "oven ready"
on labels convey to consumers that the product is not ready to eat
and should be accompanied by validated cooking instructions. Although
products might appear to be cooked, partially cooked or browned,
you should prepare these foods no differently than if you were handling
a raw product.
Many frozen stuffed poultry products, such as those filled with
cheese and other ingredients, are typically not ready to eat and
must be fully cooked as if they were raw. Because these products
are stuffed with additional ingredients, they will likely take longer
to cook than products, such as chicken breasts, that do not contain
fillings to reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165° F.
If the label mentions that a microwave oven can be used, then always
follow the cooking instructions carefully. Cover and rotate so it
heats evenly and always use a food thermometer to take multiple
temperature readings in different locations throughout the product.
This will ensure that the product is safely cooked.
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