Planning on sending homemade goodies?

Are you packing heat or ice?

Planning on sending your homemade gingerbread cookies or other homemade goodies to friends and relatives this holiday season? Maybe you are sending that homemade smoked salmon jerky? It is wise to think ahead to make sure that the homemade goodies arrive safe and sound, but most of all do not cause a food borne illness.

The number one rule when sending perishable food products through the mail is to keep them safe and out of the temperature danger zone. Perishable foods are custard pies, meringue pies, pumpkin pie, smoked meat, smoked fish, soft cheeses, dairy based dips, frozen entrees, caviar, sausage labeled keep refrigerated, and game meat. The temperature danger zone is the temperature range from 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Perishable foods should not be held at these temperatures for more than two hours. The reason is because food borne illness pathogens will grow rapidly to dangerous levels. Since these bad bugs are odorless, colorless, and tasteless, it is not possible to tell if food is spoiled by merely looking at it.

To ship perishable foods:
  • Start with a sturdy shipping box- either corrugated cardboard or Styrofoam.
  • If possible, freeze the goodies or send them with a cold source such as a frozen gel pack or dry ice.
  • If dry ice is used:
    • Do NOT touch the dry ice with bare hands!
    • Do NOT let the dry ice come in contact with the food product.
    • Write “contains dry ice” on the outside of the box to warn the recipient.
    • Use TWO layers of brown paper to wrap the box. Use recommended packaging tape.
    • Label the outside of the box by using permanent markers.
    • Label clearly, making sure the address is readable and correct.
    • Write “keep refrigerated” on the outside of the box.
    • Give the recipient a heads up as to the packages expected arrival.
    • Do NOT send to business addresses where or where there might be inadequate refrigerator storage.
    • Do NOT send packages at the end of the week. Send them at the beginning of the week so they are not waiting around on the weekend at the post office or mailing facility.
    • Whenever possible, try to send foods that do not require refrigeration, such as hard salami or hard cheese.

What about sending non-refrigerated foods? Non-refrigerated food will stay fresher longer and safer at room temperature. These homemade food gifts are great and the risk of causing a foodborne illness is lower.

These examples might spark some ideas:

  • Dried beef, fruits, canned nuts, dehydrated soups and fruit drink mixes.
  • Canned meat and fish specialties to be served with dips and cracker spreads are good. But, any cans that appear to be damaged or swollen should be thrown away.
  • Since they have a high sugar content, hard candies and homemade sweets such as pralines and toffee can be sent through regular mail, without fear of microbial growth.
  • Wrap sugar cookies and hard candies individually. Next package them in a larger container with foam packing peanuts to help cushion the ride.
  • Condiments including hot sauce, Cajun seasoning in packets, unbreakable jars, corned beef, shelf-stable hams, anchovies and shrimp dips are another safe possibility. Just avoid sending breakable jars and containers.
  • Commercially packaged cakes, cookies, and crackers are safe to mail, but again, need to be shipped in airtight containers.

With non-refrigerated foods, there is no need to worry about the temperature, but you might want to protect the original packaging. Using sturdy packaging will help insure the homemade goodies arrive in better shape from their rough ride to your friends and relatives.

So, if you are sending homemade smoked salmon jerky, make sure you put it on ice, to arrive safely. Better yet, why not send some of your non-perishable goodies to friends and relatives.

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