How to Ship Perishable Food

Sep 01,2017

You can ship perishable items at your own risk if they are properly packaged, transported by refrigerator car with transport refrigeration units, and can be delivered in a reasonable time limit so as not to deteriorate. Items are perishable if environmental conditions (like humidity or extreme temperatures) can cause a decrease in value, pose a health hazard, or create a bad odor, nuisance, or disturbance under normal shipping and storage conditions for longer than seven calendar days.For example, dairy, seafood, meat, plants, live fish, vegetables and fruit are all perishable items.When you need to ship perishable items, it's important for everyone’s safety to make sure that they'll arrive in good shape.

Part 1: Planning Ahead
①Ensure you can send the item. 
Check with your carrier first about fragile, potentially hazardous, and international shipments. The destination country you’re shipping to may have restrictions you should know about so that your package is accepted. Check the Individual Country Listings of the International Mail Manual for rules regarding the country you’re sending to.

Things that can decompose easily or can’t be reasonably expected to arrive at their destination without spoiling can’t be mailed internationally. For example, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and other items.

Dry ice cannot be sent via international mail.

You may be able to use a carrier who offers temperature controlled freight services, depending on what your sending. Consult with carriers about your individual situation.

②Be informed about homemade canned or jarred foods. 
If you are sending homemade canned or jarred foods, you should check with the National Center for Home Food Preservation for information on which foods are considered unsafe for canning and are not recommended as gifts. Home-processed cheese and meat shouldn’t be mailed, as the moisture and acidity are unknown and can cause harmful bacteria.

③Tell the recipient first. 
If possible, notify the recipient first and schedule a delivery date that works for both of you. If the item is food that should arrive cold, tell them to ensure that it is still refrigerator cold when they open the package. Notify the recipient that they should refrigerate or freeze the food immediately. Your carrier drive the refrigerator with van chiller units or freezer unit for van is responsible to deliver the perishable items on time, but the customer is responsible for someone being available to receive the package.

④Consider how to send the parcel. 
The FDA recommends that you ship perishable items using overnight delivery. Avoid sending at the end of the week. Your perishable items will probably sit in a shipping facility over the weekend. Send items as early in the week as possible. Consider where the recipient is and whether they can receive food and refrigerate it on acceptance. Will their residence or place of work be better for this?

Part 2: Packing Cold Items
①Try to avoid items that require refrigeration. 
If you’re shipping perishable items, try if possible to opt for items that don’t need to be kept cold. It is a lot less hassle and will require less packaging and handling considerations.

②Pack cold food. 
Don’t pack food while it’s still hot, or it will form condensation which encourages mold growth and may cause the food to become soggy. Cool the food first until it is refrigerator cold or frozen solid. Then pack it in sealed plastic bags. If the food needs to stay cool or cold, include a source of cold, such as dry ice or frozen gel packs. You may want to consult with a packaging expert for your delivery service and ask which method is best for your shipment as well as where to purchase those items.

Clearly mark the package “Perishable – Keep Refrigerated” on the outside. The marking should be on the address side of the mailpiece.

③Add gel ice packs. 
Choose gel ice packs for products that should be cooled at 0° C and 16° C. Freeze them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Put perishable food in sealed plastic bags. Separate the gel packs from the perishable items using cardboard. Alternatively, you can look for a carrier with a cold shipping program.

④Add dry ice. 
Use dry ice for frozen items. Be sure it's legal to send the frozen packaging materials in your area. Dry ice maintains its coldness longer than gel packs, but requires extra safety measures. Wear gloves and goggles when handling it so that you don’t burn yourself. Don’t let dry ice come in contact with food. Put food in a sealed plastic bag to protect it from dry ice. Separate dry ice from your perishable items using cardboard.

Don’t wrap dry ice. Warn the recipient if the packaging contains dry ice. Check with your shipping carrier first and find out the allowable amount of dry ice.

If you use dry ice, you need to label the address side of the box that it contains dry ice. You will also need to comply with the rules of your carrier.

⑤Add liner.
Pack the perishable item, cardboard, and coolant in a two-millimeter liner bag. Secure the bag closed with a rubber band. Now the items are ready to be placed in an insulated container.

C-300 van chiller units
PHOTO: Guchen Thermo C-300 van chiller units apply on the 15m³ cargo vans which used to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables.

Part 3: Boxing Up Perishables
①Find a suitable container. 
The items should be placed inside a sturdy, strong box or an insulated cooler. Corrugated cardboard works well. Other containers you may consider are boxes inside of cardboard boxes, insulated liners with bubble wrap, or insulated pads.

The box should have a Mullen Test of 200 pounds or more to use it for shipping perishable items. A Mullen Test measures how much weight boxes can handle without bursting.

For items that need to remain cold, use insulated foam containers with walls a minimum of one and a half inches thick. Then place the foam container inside a sturdy container.

②Include instructions. 
Consider including instructions for the recipient inside the package. Provide information about storage and preparation. This is optional but helpful, especially if you’re sending perishable food to customers who may be unsure how to prepare or handle it. Label any food inside the box as well as externally.

For food items, make it clear what ingredients are included for the sake of those with allergies or dietary restrictions.

If the item should arrive cold, include instructions about ensuring refrigerator coldness (not over 40°F/4.4°C) when they open the package. Notify the recipient that they should refrigerate or freeze the food immediately, and specify that they should not eat or even taste it if it doesn’t arrive cold.

③Pack baked goods. 
Maintain the freshness of baked goods during transit by wrapping them. Use foil or plastic to wrap. Cookies and bars need individual wrapping. Pack in layers using wax paper to separate the layers. Place items stacked or in a tin.

Hard cookies ship better than soft cookies, which can break and crumble during mailing.

④Provide the right internal packaging. 
Provide at least two inches of cushion around glass and other fragile items. Make sure that bottles and jars are sealed well. Don’t choose newspaper as your packing material, as it doesn’t have cushioning. Add any buffering packing materials needed. Use items such as plastic containers. Wrap items well in plastic wrap or foil and pack them snugly.

For chilled or frozen foods, opt for plastic foam peanuts, bubble wrap or bagged foam.

⑤Seal up the box. 
Use plenty of tape to keep the box from opening up during transportation. Avoid duct tape and masking tape; they can detach in cold weather and melt under hot conditions. Choose a tape meant for shipping.

⑥Label the box. 
Address the box with a complete mailing address and phone number. Clearly mark the package “Perishable” on the outside.The marking would be on the address side of the mailpiece. Also include your name and return address.

If required, contents should be identified on the address side of the mail.

You can use a mailer endorsement if you want to request return, forwarding, or address correction for items that are undeliverable to the address specified.

Add the instructions “Fragile, handle with care” on the address side of the mailing piece. If the contents are food, add “Food contents.”

Guchen Thermo TR-300T Freezer Units for van is driven by vehicle engine and adopt rooftop mounted way. With R404a refrigerant, this van reefer units’ cooling capacity can up to 3010W, which will keep temperature in box at -20℃ to 30℃ to transport chilled or deep frozen foods. Also we can supply standby system for customers, which can help customers save lots of fuel and cooling system still works even the engine is off. 

Guchen Thermo tr-300t freezer unit for van
PHOTO: The condenser and evaporator of Guchen Thermo TR-300T freezer unit for van and the third photo is this van reefer units installed on a big van box.