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Shipping homemade foods safely

Shipping homemade foods should be done with care, ensuring the delicious favorites arrive safely.

Americans enjoy cooking foods that are family favorites and mailing these items to family and friends. The same rules that mail order companies must follow also apply to foods prepared and mailed from our homes. You will need to make sure perishable foods are not held in temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature danger zone) for longer than two hours. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you do not depend on cold weather to be your refrigerator or freezer when shipping either.

Food that is left in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours will have higher levels of bacteria. These bacteria cannot be seen, tasted or smelt. In other words, you cannot tell whether a food has been mishandled or if it is unsafe to eat. Whether you are sending your package a short distance or out of the country, here are some ideas to help get your package and its delicious contents to the final destination the way it was intended:

For perishable foods the United States Department of Agriculture suggests:

  • Ship in a sturdy box
  • Pack with a cold source (gel packs or dry ice)
    • When using dry ice:
      • Don’t touch the dry ice with bare hands
      • Don’t let it come in direct contact with food
      • Warn the recipient that it is in the packing by writing “Contains dry ice” on the outside of the shipping box.
      • Wrap box in two layers of brown paper.
      • Use permanent markers to label outside of the box using recommended packaging tape.
      • Label outside of the box clearly; make sure address is complete and correct.
      • Write “keep refrigerated” on outside of the box.
      • Alert recipient of its expected arrival.
      • Don’t send to a business address or where there won’t be adequate refrigerator storage.
      • Don’t send packages at the end of the week; send at beginning so they don’t sit in the post office or mail room over the weekend.
      • Whenever possible send foods that don’t require refrigeration (hard salami, hard cheese, country ham).

If you are sending non-perishable food items try these tips:

  • Be sure bottled and canned items are tightly sealed in thick containers that won’t break easily.
  • Foods like nuts, cookies and snack mixes should be sealed in airtight wrap before putting them into a gift container and the final shipping box. Make sure moist foods are wrapped separately from crisp, dry foods to preserve textures.
  • Cakes, loaf breads or pound cakes should be placed in a tin, canister or original disposable baking pan, all tightly sealed in plastic wrap to prevent drying.
  • Cupcakes or other homemade treats that are individual in nature should be put into individual cups or layered between waxed paper, parchment or butcher paper. Leave no headroom in the container. Fill space with crumpled wax paper.
  • Fragile glass bottles and jars should be tightly sealed, placed in zip top bags filled with air for cushioning. Further protect with bubble wrap or shipping peanuts.
  • Individually seal and wrap items if shipping an assortment, then place in sturdy box. Use newspaper, popped corn in zip-top bags, shipping peanuts etc. to cushion the goodies.
  • If shipping more than one item, place heavier items at the bottom. Leave ample space around each item with additional packing materials. Shake the box to ensure there is no headspace and contents will not shift.

It is recommended to use the fastest shipping source available. You will also want to check dates as well to be sure you package will arrive in time. Many services have deadlines for package shipping. So many times a simple homemade treat is the best gift of all. By following these guidelines you will be sure to package your tasteful treat the right way and be sure it arrives in one piece.

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