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.
TIPS FOR THE PURCHASER
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.
TIPS FOR THE RECEIVER
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.
TIPS FOR THE "MAIL-IT-YOURSELF"-ER
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
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