Use common sense when sending food by mail
By By Ida Brown/The Meridian Star
Dec. 6, 2000
Most holiday traditions include a favorite food. Whether it's a delectable cake from a recipe that's been handed down for generations or a tasty treat such as cheese straws, no holiday is considered complete without these delicacies.
So if Junior is away on military duty and won't be home for Christmas to enjoy his favorite chocolate chip cookies, Mom usually will send him a batch by mail.
While just about any food can be delivered by mail, there are guidelines that should be followed to ensure safe arrival to its destination especially perishable foods.
Packaging is a top priority.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following suggestions:
Make sure perishable foods are not held at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F., the "Danger Zone," for longer than 2 hours. Pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly in the "Danger Zone," but they do not generally affect the taste, smell or appearance of a food. In other words, you cannot tell that a food has been mishandles or is unsafe to eat.
Ship in a sturdy box.
Pack with a cold source, i.e., frozen gel packs or dry ice.
When using dry ice:
3Don't touch the dry ice with bare hands
3 Don't let it come in direct contact with food.
3 Warn the recipient of its use by writing "Contains Dry Ice" on the outside of the box.
Wrap box in two layers of brown paper.
Use permanent markers to label outside of the box. Use recommended packing tape.
Label outside clearly; make sure address is complete and correct.
Write "Keep Refrigerated" on outside of the box.
Alert recipient of its expected arrival.
Do not send to business addresses or where there will not be adequate refrigerator storage.
Do not send packages at the end of the week. Send at the beginning of the week so they do not remain in post office or mailing facility over the weekend. Mosley also recommends sending perishable items Priority or Express mail to ensure faster delivery.
Whenever possible, send foods that do not require refrigeration, e.g., hard salami, hard cheese, country ham.
With Christmas only a few weeks away, deadlines for shipping food items are nearing. Mosley recommends the following deadlines:
Packages to APO (military) addresses and overseas, Dec. 12.
Packages to addresses more than 400 miles from the Meridian area, Dec. 16.
Packages to addresses 300 to 400 miles from the Meridian area, Dec. 21.
Mail order food is another option for those who want to send food to loved ones during the holidays.
While the mail order industry enjoys a good safety record, ordering food through the mail may cause concerns about food safety, shelf life and distribution.
It is imperative to develop some mental checklists for how both food and packaging should look when perishable mail order foods arrive. This is especially true for meat, poultry, fish and other perishable foods such as cheesecake, which must be carefully handled in a timely manner to prevent foodborne illness.
The following food safety tips will help the purchaser and recipient determine if their perishable foods have been handled properly:
Make sure the company sends perishable items such as meat or poultry cold or frozen and packed with a cold source. It should be packed in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
The food should be delivered as quickly as possible ideally, overnight. make sure perishable items and the outer package are labeled "Keep Refrigerated" to alert the recipient.
When you receive a food item marked "Keep Refrigerated," open it immediately and check its temperature. The food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible. Even if a product is smoked, cured and/or fully cooked, it still is a perishable product and must be kept cold. If perishable food arrives warm, notify the company. Do not consume the food. Don not even taste the suspect food.
Tell the recipient if the company has promised a delivery date. Or, alert the recipient that "the gift is in the mail" so someone can be there to receive it. Don't have perishable items delivered to an office unless you know it will arrive on a work day and there is refrigerator space available for keeping it cold.