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Everyone loves getting packages in the mail. Sometimes they are gifts of food - either homemade or from mail order. When it's baked goods or shelf-stable canned items, the lucky recipient usually knows how to tell about its safety and what to do with it. But waht about smoked turkeys, cheese and sausage gift packs, and other perishable items? Whether you are giving or receiving, there are some food safety tips you need to keep in mind for these special gifts.


Speedy Delivery

Ask the company how the food will be mailed. If it's a perishable item, it should be delivered as quickly as possible - ideally, overnight. Make sure perishable items and other outer packages are labelled "KEEP REFRIGERATED" to alert the recipient.

Storage and Preparation Instructions

Will the food item come with storage and preparation instructions? Some mail order food gift items are of an unusual nature and some consumers may not know how to handle or prepare them.

Arrange a Delivery Date

Tell the recipient if the company has promised a delivery date. Or alert the recipient that "the gift is in the mail" so that they or a neighbour can be home to receive it. Otherwise it may sit unsafely on the front porch or at the post office for hours or even days. Don't have perishable items delivered to an office unless you know it will arrive on a work day and there's a refrigerator for keeping it cold.


Check the Temperature

When you receive a food item marked "Keep Refrigerated", open it immediately and check its temperature. Optimally, the food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible, or at least, refrigerator cold to the touch. If perishable food arrives warm, notify the company if you think you deserve a refund. Do not consume the food. But remember, it's the shipper's responsibility to deliver perishable foods on time; the customer's responsibility to have someone at home to receive the package.

Keep It Cold

Refrigerator or freeze perishable items immediately. Even if a product is partially defrosted it is safe to freeze it, although there may be a slight loss of quality.


Pack It Safely

Perishable foods will stay at a safe temperature longest if frozen solid first. After frozen, pack your food gift with a cold source such as a frozen gel or purchased dry ice.

Use a Sturdy Box

Pack your frozen food and cold source in a sturdy box, such as heavy foam or corrugated cardboard. Fill up any empty space with crushed paper or foam "popcorn". Air space in the box will cause the food and cold source to thaw faster.

Label It Perishable

Your package should be clearly labeled "Perishable - Keep Refrigerated". As in "Tips for the Purchaser" above, arrange a delivery date with the recipient. Ship your package by overnight delivery.

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