Get Healthy: Safety tips for shipping holiday food |

Get Healthy: Safety tips for shipping holiday food

Pam Graber
For the Nevada Appeal

What is important to know about sending or receiving food in the mail?

Holidays are a time for giving and receiving food through the mail. Whether you ship delicacies from your own kitchen, or receive food gifts in the mail, there are important considerations when it comes to perishable food, especially meat, poultry, fish and things like cheesecake. These foods must be handled carefully and in a timely manner to prevent foodborne illness.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following safety tips to help senders and receivers know if perishable food has been handled and shipped properly:


The mail order food business is a big one. If you receive a package containing perishable food, take note:

• If it’s perishable, be sure it was sent cold or frozen, complete with a cold source, and was packed in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.

• Overnight shipping is best, with the package marked “Keep Refrigerated.”

• When you receive a package marked “Keep Refrigerated,” open it immediately and check its temperature. The food should arrive frozen or at least partially frozen with ice crystals still visible.

The food should at least be refrigerator cold – below 40 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.

Even if a product is smoked, cured, vacuum-packed, and/or fully cooked, it is still perishable and must be kept cold.

• If a perishable food arrives warm, above 40 degrees measured with a food thermometer, notify the company right away. There is likely an 800 number in or on the box.

Do not consume the food. Do not even taste suspect food!

• When sending commercial food to others, tell the receiver if the company has promised a delivery date, or at least, tell them that “a gift is in the mail” so someone can be there to receive it.

Do not send perishable items to an office unless you know it will arrive on a work day and that there is refrigerator space for keeping it cold.


When sending gifts of perishable foods prepared at home, follow these guidelines:

• Ship in a sturdy box.

• Pack with a cold source such as dry ice or frozen gel packs. Dry ice is available at some grocery stores, it’s best to call first.

• When using dry ice, don’t let it come in direct contact with food, or hands. Warn the recipient of its use by writing “Contains Dry Ice” on the outside of the box.

• Wrap the box in two layers of brown paper.

• Write “Keep Refrigerated” on the outside of the box.

• Alert the recipient of its expected arrival.

• Do not send packages at the end of the week. Ship at the beginning of the week so packages won’t sit in a post office or mailing facility over the weekend.

• Whenever possible, send non-perishable food.

Food is holiday favorite, but be sure the items you send or receive are safe for consumption. For more information, go to and type “mail order food safety” in the search box. Bon appetit!

Carson City Health and Human Services

Clinic Hours: Monday-Wednesday and Friday

9 a.m.-4 p.m., by appointment

900 E. Long St.

(775) 887-2190

• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services. She can be reached at 775-283-7906 or More information is available

online at