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Safely sending perishable holiday gifts

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

What is a family to do if an out-of-town loved one cannot make it home for the holidays but loves turkey and dressing? Mailing perishable homemade goods or sending items via mail order is certainly a viable option for gift givers. Following some food safety tips will help avoid the risk of foodborne illness.

“Bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses grow rapidly between 40 and 140 F in perishable foods. But, you may not be able to tell the food isn’t safe because its taste, smell or appearance may not change,” said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

To safely mail homemade perishable items, pack the food in a sturdy box with frozen gel packs, dry ice or another cold source.

“If you use dry ice, avoid touching it with your bare hands and don’t let it come in contact with the food,” Brown said. “Label the outside of the box ‘Contains Dry Ice’ to alert the recipient of the package.”

Write the complete address and “Keep Refrigerated” clearly on the outside of the package with permanent marker.

When mail ordering products, make sure the vendor will send perishable food items cold or frozen and packed with a cold source in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard box. Label the outside of the container, “Keep Refrigerated.”

Ideally, the package should be delivered overnight or as quickly as possible.

“Mail the package at the beginning of the week so it won’t sit at the post office over a weekend,” Brown said. “Also avoid sending packages containing perishable items to business addresses or locations where there may not be any refrigeration.”

Let the person receiving the package know it is coming and if there is an expected arrival date.

When the package arrives, the receiver should open it immediately. Perishable food should still be frozen or partially frozen. If it is warm, no one should taste or eat the food. Instead, if the food was from a commercial source, notify the company for instructions on how to proceed.

For more information on sending perishable items safely, contact the nearest county Extension office or visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service at and search for “Mail Order Safety.”

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