Mailing Food Gifts

— Written By Donna Hanusik
en Español

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Whether you are mailing Christmas goodies to your grandchildren in the next state or your soldier across the ocean, food safety plays an important role.

Types of foods that mail best:
Receiving a gift of food in the mail is a treat for any gift-receiver. Here are some tips on what foods mail best and how to mail food gifts to keep the food safe:

  • Dried beef or poultry (e.g. beef jerky, turkey jerky or beef slims) are safe to mail. Bacteria cannot grow in foods that are preserved by removing moisture.
  • Dehydrated soups and drink mixes are lightweight and safe to send through the mail.
  • Condiments such as hot sauce and Cajun seasonings in packets, sealable bags or unbreakable jars are useful gifts for spice-lovers.
  • Canned foods or specialty foods (e.g. shrimp, dips, corned beef and cracker spreads) make nice gifts. Remind the gift-receiver to check for swollen or damaged containers when they receive the gifts. Do not mail foods in glass containers because they break easily.
  • Dense and dry baked goods such as fruitcakes and biscotti are good choices for mailing because they will not mold. Other suitable baked goods include commercially packaged cakes and cookies in airtight tins or containers.
  • Dried fruits such as raisins and apricots, canned nuts and fruit, and commercially-packaged trail mix need no refrigeration and are easy to send.
  • Hard candies and sturdy homemade sweets such as pralines and toffee are safe to mail because the high-sugar content will prevent bacterial growth.

Tips on wrapping and cushioning foods for mailing:
When mailing 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 mail-order companies to order and deliver foods:
Consider ordering mail-order food (shelf-stable beef “summer sausage,” cheeses, cakes, snacks) online or through mail-order catalogues. Do not order any food that must be kept refrigerated unless you are sure of the delivery time.

If you order perishable foods, find out how the food and packaging will be handled. This is important for meat, poultry, fish and foods such as cheesecake. 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”, open immediately and check the temperature. The food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible. If a perishable food arrives warm, notify the company. DO NOT eat the food!
  • Tell the recipient that “a gift is in the mail” so someone can be available to receive it and it won’t sit on a doorstep for a couple days.

Courtesy: Carol Burtness, University of Minnesota Extension

For more information on handling safe food, contact Dee Furlough, Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent with Dare County office of N.C. Cooperative Extension, at 473-4290 or