The upcoming holiday season is a great time for all of you that are producing wonderful foods to share these products with friends and family, or even expand your business by selling food gifts. Mail may be the best way to send these products- particularly if you have family and friends living in far-away places like South Dakota (as I do).
If you are planning to send – or sell – gifts of food this year, be sure that you do so safely so that the delicious food will not go to waste and will be the best quality possible when it arrives. Here are a few tips:
1) Pack the food safely
- Perishable foods will stay at a safe temperature longer if frozen solid first. Once the item is completely frozen, pack your food with a cold source such as a frozen gel pack or purchased dry ice.
- Check with your local post office (or other shipping company) on the best method of packing your particular food gift and the recommended shipping method to ensure safety and quality. Remember, perishable foods need to arrive as soon as possible, ideally overnight.
- Sweet foods like fruitcakes, candy, jams, and jellies can be shipped at room temperature and are much less likely to pose safety problems as the high sugar levels usually postpones deterioration.
2) Mark the food clearly
- If perishable, mark the package “keep refrigerated” and list the contents such as “meat” on the outside of the package. Include instructions on proper temperature and storage inside the box for the recipient.
3) Notify the receiver of the expected delivery date.
- Although you may want the gift to be a surprise, with perishable foods, you should notify the recipient and make sure someone can take delivery on the expected delivery date.
- Don’t have a perishable item delivered to an office unless you know it will arrive when someone there will be responsible to refrigerate or freeze it upon arrival.
Check out the WAgN and the Vermont New Farmer Project websites, where there are excellent resource materials and training opportunities, such as Growing Places, that can help producers to assess various market opportunities and to price and promote your products in various venues, including mail order.
More details on upcoming UVM Extension food safety training courses, including the two listed below is available from same website:
- Agritourism and Food Safety webinar – December 14, 12-1:00 p.m.
- Food Safety for Food Processors – December 15, 1-4 p.m., Brattleboro, Vt.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions on this information or any other areas of food safety.
Happy holidays and happy (safe) eating!