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We recently received a Hello Fresh box as a gift. However, due to snowstorms in the area, it arrived four days late, and I'm sure that extra time was spent on a truck or on a shelf in a shipping center.

The ice pack in the box was still frozen. I'm sure the potatoes and other dry ingredients are ok, but I wonder about the packages of ground meat and chicken breasts.

How do I know if the (meat/dairy) contents are safe to eat?

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    I don’t know how they package the food they’re shipping, but I would beware if any packages that are puffed up like balloon.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 11, 2022 at 21:29
  • Were there dates stamped on the meat packages? If so, what did they indicate about the age of the box? Also, if the box had been stored at ambient temperature for 4 days, the ice pack would obviously have melted, so presumably you can you infer that, even if 4 days old, the box had been refrigerated/frozen?
    – gidds
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 12:35
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    Long ago, I owned a fast food restaurant. A customer brought back a sandwich complaining that it smelled. I checked the box the meat came in and the date was good. The date on the packages inside were good. But opening a package brought out a stench. Obviously something was mishandled and, perhaps, this box was not stored properly by the shipping company or the plant.
    – Rob
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 12:57

4 Answers 4

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The short answer is you don't know, there's no certainty. Even with food bought from a supermarket there are no guarantees, there could be handling errors which reduce the shelf life or you could get it home and find it's spoiled.

With your package if the food was still very cold to the touch and the ice pack was still frozen then there's a good chance the food is still fine, however a cold pack can feel chilly but not be cold enough so unless you measured the temperature you can't be sure.

I would treat the meat with suspicion, and play it safe. If you think it was kept refrigerator temperature the whole time and the meat looks and smells fresh then it may be safe, if not I'd chuck the meats as it's not worth the risk. Cheeses may be fine, many get aged above refrigerator temperature, so if they didn't stay that cold they're a better bet.

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Pretty much the same as you would do with the regular supermarket-bought food: check for the package bloating, odd smells, discoloration, sliminess to the touch, all the usuals. It would also make sense to slow cook the meats. Given the snowstorms and unmelted ice, it is likely the foods have spent their time on a truck in favorable conditions.

Personally, I would cook it unless given an indication something's off (like odor), but that depends on how sure you are in that it is safe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.

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HelloFresh boxes can only be refrigerated, not frozen after they are packed, because freezing would ruin the lettuce, spinach, etc. Therefore if the ice in the meat pack is still frozen, then your box was almost certainly packed today or yesterday.

They probably packed your box 4 days late knowing that they wouldn't be able to send the driver into the storm. Your food is fresh.

On rare occasions HelloFresh sends me stuff that is less-than-fresh; if it looks or smells gross, I don't eat it. And I eat the fish and chicken first because I have noticed that when they come from HelloFresh they do sometimes expire a couple days before the expiry date printed on the packet.

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  • Excellent point, showing that the ice pack would not have re-frozen without damaging the other freeze-sensitive items in the box.
    – Criggie
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 0:38
  • OP wrote I'm sure that extra time was spent on a truck or on a shelf in a shipping center. We don't know how he can be sure - maybe he got a confirmation mail about when the package was sent on its way (I don't know how Hello Fresh works in that regard). For the sake of taking the question at face value, I'd suggest to reformulate the "they probably packed..." and especially the very confident "Your food is fresh." sentence.
    – AnoE
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 8:26
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The package was cold, ice pack frozen, etc. when you received it. But the big question is whether it stayed cold the whole time. There are temperature monitoring labels such as this one:

TempDot

(I have never used this particular one, just found it in a search, there are many manufacturers of similar items.)

But residential shipments don't necessarily have such things.

The other useful clue is the "ice pack".

If it contains dry ice (solid CO2), it will sublimate over time and the packs will be partly or fully empty if the temperature has risen too high for too long. But again, residential deliveries are probably less likely to use dry ice due to handling concerns.

If it contains water ice but is well sealed, it will melt if the temperature has risen too high for too long, but it will refreeze if the temperature is cold enough for long enough. If the pack normally has "cubes", a refreeze will be obvious because the pack will feel differently (single blob instead of "cubes").

If it contains some other liquid/solid, all bets are off. Many "ice packs" contain a liquid that can be frozen/melted/refrozen numerous times with no obvious effects.

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  • So if I buy these temperature monitoring labels, how long do I have to put it on the package and wait before I can open the package? Or do they work instantly? Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 9:05
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    @GregoryCurrie You as buyer can't use them. The use case is that the seller puts the proper one in / on the package, and the recipient can verify during handover if the package has been above the threshold temperature and if so, for how long.
    – zovits
    Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 11:33
  • Ahh ok. So not that useful for the OP. Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 13:31
  • @Gregory Not directly useful. But explaining how it is possible if the vendor puts some $ and effort into it. Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 13:56

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