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Problem with Ready Meals packaging method

Blast chilling

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 07:28 AM


Hoping for some quick responses.

Working with a new start business producing indian ready meals

They have been hot filling and sealing the trays (within 30 mins of cooking) then blast chilling the trays.

The trays are buckling and the film is coming away - propose we blast chill the bulk raw materials, once down to <5 store in the fridge then bring out the bulk cooked material in small batches to fill and seal the trays and put them back in the fridge. The process is very manual - hand weighing and hand sealing.

Is it better to hot fill the trays? - all micro has been done on this method so I understand we need to re-do the micro'

Does anyone have any experience of packing ready meals. Any help would be hugely appreciated - we're struggling!

We are using cadboard trays which are not sealing properly and buckling (albeit intermitently) when they come out of the blast chiller - which looks really poor. Awaitng the packaging supplier's response on this.

Any thoughts on the proposed new method??

Many thanks



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Posted 20 June 2019 - 08:52 AM


the hot filling of ready meals and in the same time sealing, normally will give you humidity on the final product.

The best is to fill cold.


Dimou Leonidas


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Posted 20 June 2019 - 01:55 PM

Try blast chilling the cooked food in bulk, then when temperatures are <5deg C, you manually portion and fill your trays and seal. Make sure the area where you are doing the portion is within temperature to keep the food out of danger zone and bring out the bulk food in smaller portions unless you have many employees who can do it fast enough.

"Whatever you do, do it well..." - Walt Disney



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Posted 20 June 2019 - 04:48 PM

agree with majoy


also contact manufacturer (if you havn't already) it should have been made clear at purchase what it was capable of doing well

Please stop referring to me as Sir/sirs


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Posted 20 June 2019 - 10:17 PM

That's great - thanks all.

I thought blast chilling in bulk was preferable but the EHO said not!

Will do some extra micro testing on this method.

We dont have an area out of the danger zone so will need to pack it before it reaches 8oC - we'll keep most of it in the cold store until it is required and pack it quickly.


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Posted 20 June 2019 - 10:44 PM

Just as a comment -


The two variants may not necessarily yield final products of the same ultimate BCP characteristics. My guess is that yr EHO was proposing a "rule of thumb" that freezing products asap minimizes potential quality losses and safety-related deficiencies. IMEX has certainly proved correct for RTE, IQF, cooked seafood.


Sometimes practical problems arise due inadequate freezing equipment. And possibly sealing units/tray materials ? Questions for the respective suppliers ?

Kind Regards,




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Posted 21 June 2019 - 10:43 AM

I've worked in ready meals and the method you describe is typical of what I've seen.


A few things to watch out for.


I agree you need to review your shelf life.

You need to validate your cooling time not just your cooking times.  If you have a long cooling curve you will have micro issues. 

You also need to check and control any hand hygiene (if you're using hands to deposit anything) scoops, depositors etc. 

It's strongly advisable to have a cool (say 13oC) packing area and limit the amount of time WIP can stay out of the fridge.

As part of your shelf life work, do it all from "worst case scenario" so if you're considering giving 3 days life to the rice (maximum) then putting it in the trays, do your trials with 3 day old WIP rice then see what the product shelf life is like.

Then obviously all of the micro monitoring of WIP, environment and finished product including ongoing micro and organoleptic reviews of shelf life.

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