Outbreaks are, however, only the most visible aspect of a much broader, more
persistent problem as there are large numbers of sporadic cases and smaller outbreaks that are never reported. In the U.S. where an excellent surveillance system
is in place, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that for
every case of Salmonella infection reported, at least 30 cases go unreported, primarily due to affected individuals that choose to forego medical care. Unfortunately,
many countries throughout the world do not have good reporting systems, and
the total magnitude of global foodborne illnesses is therefore difficult to deter-
Third Generation of Prepared
The prepared foods industry is in
the midst of its third generation of growth.
The “first generation” of prepared foods
focused on canned foods although
many food marketing experts believe
that this category has reached its market
“Outbreaks of foodborne illness continue to
occur and have been documented on every continent,
illustrating both the public health and social significance of
mine. The World Health Organization estimates that up to one-third of the world
population suffers from foodborne illness annually, which leads to death with
alarming frequency, particularly within countries that lack accessible health care.
Numerous national and international agencies have begun to document the
impact of foodborne illnesses and the substantial economic burden that they
impose in the form of higher healthcare costs and the marked reduction in workforce productivity.
The increasing incidence of foodborne illness is due to a multiplicity of factors
• The continual evolution of consumer eating patterns, including a preference for
fresh and minimally processed ready-to-eat foods, and new types of prepared
convenience products being marketed and consumed.
• Changing farm practices, particularly related to the disposal of manure from
large-scale animal production facilities, which have an indirect impact on food
contamination. Uncomposted or untreated manure frequently contains
pathogens that can contaminate nearby agricultural operations via water, wind or
direct contact. This issue is exacerbated by progressive urbanization that is occurring in developed countries, including the U.S., resulting results in increasing
proximity of crops to animal husbandry operations and the potential for cross-contamination.
• Inadequate or improper refrigeration during the “field to the fork” continuum in
which a single break in the cold chain can create conditions under which any
existing bacterial pathogens may flourish. The potential links in the cold chain
include raw material harvesting and distribution, manufacturing plant packaging
and storage conditions, loading docks, trucks, distribution depots, retail and
foodservice holding coolers, store merchandisers, transportation by the consumer
between the store and home and home refrigerators. As the number of steps in
the chain increases, the risk of abusive handling increases concomitantly. This
issue is heightened in the U.S. compared with Europe and other developed
regions because the distribution system is highly segmented and volume-driven.
It is common for the refrigerated shelf life of a product to be 2–3 days in the
UK, for example, and in the U.S. this may typically be from 10–21+ days dependant on the product, barriers used and its method of distribution.
• Insufficient workforce training, particularly in agricultural operations and in
foodservice establishments. Heightened training is needed in areas such as sanitation practices and avoidance of product contamination. This problem is further
compounded by the extremely high employee turnover rate, which is common in
both agricultural and foodservice industries.
• An aging population that is more susceptible to foodborne illness.
potential. The “second generation” of
prepared foods focused on frozen foods,
which demonstrated phenomenal
growth during the past two decades,
but many experts believe that this category has also reached its maturity. We
are currently in the midst of a “third
generation” of technological and market innovation defined by value-added
refrigerated prepared foods.
Each “generation” of prepared foods
has taken considerable time to move
through its life cycle—from technological breakthrough, to market entry, to
consumer acceptance and finally to
commercial success. Typically, this
learning phase is followed by rapid
growth in the category. The refrigerated
prepared foods category is achieving
commercial success faster than prior
generations of prepared foods, driven
by rapid advances in technology and
evolving consumer preferences.
Consumer demand for products
offering even greater convenience and
higher quality has increased dramatically in recent years. “Convenience” is
widely recognized as a major purchasing motivator for prepared foods today.
In addition, the term “fresh” has been
equated with higher quality, better
taste, improved nutrition and a positive
benefit that consumers demand. “
Freshness” and “convenience” are attributes
that are inherent in this third generation of refrigerated prepared food products, particularly products that are
ready-to-eat and do not require
microwave or oven heating prior to