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Shipping food safely

Gift box with bow.

Types of foods that ship best

Receiving a gift of food in the mail or by delivery is a treat for anyone. Here are some tips on what foods are best for shipping and how to keep them safe:

  • Dried beef or poultry (e.g. beef jerky, turkey jerky or beef slims) are safe. Bacteria cannot grow in foods that are preserved by removing moisture.
  • Dehydrated soups and drink mixes are lightweight and safe to ship.
  • Condiments such as hot sauce and other seasonings in packets, sealable bags or unbreakable jars are useful for spice-lovers.
  • Canned foods or specialty foods (e.g. shrimp, dips, corned beef and cracker spreads) make nice gifts. Remind the recipient to check for swollen or damaged containers when the package is received. Do not use glass containers because they break easily.
  • Dried fruits such as raisins and apricots, canned nuts and fruit, and trail or snack mix need no refrigeration and are easy to send.
  • Hard candies and sturdy homemade sweets such as pralines and toffee are safe because the high-sugar content will prevent bacterial growth.

Tips on wrapping and cushioning foods for shipping

When sending cookies, bars and homemade candies, wrap each piece individually and pack items in commercially popped corn, foam packing "peanuts" or bubble wrap to help cushion the trip. Place food in a sturdy box and seal securely.

Consider online companies to order and deliver foods

There are many options to order and ship all kinds of food, both non-perishable as well as perishable. Non-perishable foods can be safely stored at room temperature and include breads, canned goods, jams, jellies, and dried or dehydrated items. Perishable foods include meats, poultry, fish, cheesecake and anything that must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer for food safety.

Important for all foods but especially for perishable foods is to find out how the food will be handled, packaged, shipped and length of delivery time. The following tips will ensure that perishable foods are handled properly:

  • Make sure the company sends cold perishable items (meat or poultry) with a cold source and packs them in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
  • Food should be delivered as quickly as possible and ideally OVERNIGHT.
  • When you receive foods marked "Keep Refrigerated" or “Keep Frozen,” open immediately and check the temperature of the food with a food thermometer. The food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible. If perishable food arrives and the food temperature is above 40℉, immediately contact the company. DO NOT eat the food!
  • Talk to the recipient before making shipping or delivery arrangements so someone is available when the package arrives.

Carol Ann Burtness, former Extension educator, Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator and Kathy Brandt, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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