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Convenience food

Convenience food

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Convenience food, or tertiary processed food, is commercially prepared food designed for ease of consumption. Products designated as convenience foods are often prepared food stuffs that can be sold as hot, ready-to-eat dishes; as room-temperature, shelf-stable products; or as refrigerated or frozen products that require minimal preparation (typically just heating).

These products are often sold in portion control
Portion control (dieting)
Portion control is understanding how much a serving size is and how many calories a serving contains. Portion control is important for weight management as the weight is defined by the total calorie intake...

led, single serve packaging designed for portability and "on-the-go" eating. Convenience food can include products such as candy
Candy
Candy, specifically sugar candy, is a confection made from a concentrated solution of sugar in water, to which flavorings and colorants are added...

; beverages such as soft drinks, juices and milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

; fast food
Fast food
Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a...

; nuts
Nut (fruit)
A nut is a hard-shelled fruit of some plants having an indehiscent seed. While a wide variety of dried seeds and fruits are called nuts in English, only a certain number of them are considered by biologists to be true nuts...

, fruits and vegetables in fresh or preserved
Dried fruit
Dried fruit is fruit where the majority of the original water content has been removed either naturally, through sun drying, or through the use of specialized dryers or dehydrators. Dried fruit has a long tradition of use dating back to the fourth millennium BC in Mesopotamia, and is prized...

 states; processed meats
Cold cut
Cold cuts are cheeses or precooked or cured meat, often sausages or meat loaves, that are sliced and usually served cold on sandwiches or on party trays. They can be bought pre-sliced in vacuum packs at a supermarket or grocery store, or they can be purchased at a delicatessen or deli counter,...

 and cheeses
Processed cheese
Processed cheese, process cheese, cheese slice, prepared cheese, cheese singles or cheese food is a food product made from normal cheese and sometimes other unfermented dairy ingredients, plus emulsifiers, extra salt, food colorings, or whey...

; and canned
Canning
Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a typical shelf life ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances a freeze-dried canned product, such as canned, dried lentils, can last as...

 products such as soup
Soup
Soup is a generally warm food that is made by combining ingredients such as meat and vegetables with stock, juice, water, or another liquid. Hot soups are additionally characterized by boiling solid ingredients in liquids in a pot until the flavors are extracted, forming a broth.Traditionally,...

s and pasta
Pasta
Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine, now of worldwide renown. It takes the form of unleavened dough, made in Italy, mostly of durum wheat , water and sometimes eggs. Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes that serve for both decoration and to act as a carrier for the...

 dishes.

History


Modern convenience food saw its beginnings in the period that began after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in the United States. Many of these products had their origins in military developed foods designed for storage longevity and ease of preparation in the battle field. After the war, many commercial food companies were left with surplus manufacturing facilities. These companies developed new lines of canned and freeze dried foods that were designed for use in the home. Like many product introductions, not all were successful—convenience food staples such as fish sticks and canned
Canning
Canning is a method of preserving food in which the food contents are processed and sealed in an airtight container. Canning provides a typical shelf life ranging from one to five years, although under specific circumstances a freeze-dried canned product, such as canned, dried lentils, can last as...

 peach
Peach
The peach tree is a deciduous tree growing to tall and 6 in. in diameter, belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. It bears an edible juicy fruit called a peach...

es were counterbalanced by failures such as ham sticks and cheeseburgers-in-a-can.

Criticisms


Critics have derided the increasing trend of convenience foods because of numerous issues. Several groups have cited the environmental harm of single serve packaging due to the increased usage of plastics that contributes to solid waste in landfills.

Nutritional issues


According to a page on the website of the Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic
The Cleveland Clinic is a multispecialty academic medical center located in Cleveland, Ohio, United States. The Cleveland Clinic is currently regarded as one of the top 4 hospitals in the United States as rated by U.S. News & World Report...

: "Most convenience foods on the market today are laden with saturated fats, sodium and sugar and provide little to no nutritional value."

Salt


Salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 is an essential nutrient, but sodium, usually in the form of salt, has been linked with high blood pressure
Hypertension
Hypertension or high blood pressure is a cardiac chronic medical condition in which the systemic arterial blood pressure is elevated. What that means is that the heart is having to work harder than it should to pump the blood around the body. Blood pressure involves two measurements, systolic and...

. A single serving of many convenience foods contains a significant portion of the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Manufacturers are concerned that if the taste of each product is not optimized by adding salt that it will not sell as well as competing products. Tests have shown that some popular packaged foods are dependent on significant amounts of salt for their palatability
Palatability
Palatability is the hedonic reward provided by foods or fluids that are agreeable to the "palate" in regard to the homeostatic satisfaction of nutritional, water, or energy needs. The palatability of a food or fluid, unlike its flavor or taste, varies with the state of an individual: it is lower...

.

Labeling, mitigation, and regulation


In response to the issues surrounding the healthfulness of convenience and restaurant foods, an initiative in the United States, spearheaded by first lady
First Lady of the United States
First Lady of the United States is the title of the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president. The current first lady is Michelle Obama.-Current:The...

 Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is the wife of the 44th and incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African-American First Lady of the United States...

 and her "Let's Move" campaign, to reduce the unhealthy aspects of commercially produced food and fight childhood obesity, was unveiled by the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 in February 2010. Using her position as a bully pulpit
Bully pulpit
A bully pulpit is a public office or other position of authority of sufficiently high rank that provides the holder with an opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any matter...

, Mrs. Obama has pushed the industry to cut back on sugars and salts found in many convenience foods, encouraging self regulation over government intervention through laws and regulations. Despite Mrs. Obama's stated preference on self-regulation, the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 announced that it was looking into quantifying the guidelines into law while other groups and municipalities are seeking to add other preventative measures such as target taxes and levies onto these products. In response to the attention, in April 2010 a coalition of sixteen manufactures all agreed to reduce salt levels in foods sold in the United States under a program based on a similar effort in the United Kingdom. However, the initiative has met with resistance from some manufacturers, who claim that processed foods require the current high levels of salt to remain appetizing and to mask undesirable effects of food processing such as "warmed over flavor
Warmed over flavor
Warmed-over flavor is an unpleasant flavor which develops in cooked meat which is subsequently refrigerated prior to reheating. As cooking and subsequent refrigeration is the case with most convenience foods containing meat, it is a significant challenge to the processed food industry...

." The coalition expanded its mission in May 2010 by announcing that it intends to reduce the amount of calories in foods. By introducing lower calorie foods, changing product recipes and reducing portion sizes, the coalition stated that it expected to reduce the caloric content of foods by more than 1.5 trillion calories in total by 2012.

See also



  • TV dinner
    TV dinner
    A TV dinner is a prepackaged frozen or chilled meal that usually comes as an individual portion...

  • Food desert
    Food desert
    A food desert is any area in the industrialised world where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain. It is prevalent in rural as well as urban areas and is most prevalent in low-socioeconomic minority communities, and is associated with a variety of diet-related health problems...

  • Food preservation
    Food preservation
    Food preservation is the process of treating and handling food to stop or slow down spoilage and thus allow for longer storage....

  • Food processing
    Food processing
    Food processing is the set of methods and techniques used to transform raw ingredients into food or to transform food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals either in the home or by the food processing industry...

  • Junk food
    Junk food
    Junk food is an informal term applied to some foods that are perceived to have little or no nutritional value ; to products with nutritional value, but which also have ingredients considered unhealthy when regularly eaten; or to those considered unhealthy to consume at all...

  • Comfort food
    Comfort food
    Comfort food is food prepared traditionally that may have a nostalgic or sentimental appeal. Comfort foods may be foods that have a nostalgic element either to an individual or a specific culture...


External links