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Mail-Order Food Gifts Require Planning
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Melissa Mixon, human nutrition specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said since mail-order food gifts are increasing in popularity, consumers need to be aware of the precautions necessary to mail a perishable item.
"More people are looking to personalize their gifts. Family favorites are now being mailed to relatives and friends. We receive calls from consumers who realize there is a risk involved but want to take the necessary precautions to ensure the cheesecake made from the prized family recipe is safe to eat when it arrives," Mixon said.
In today's time-crunching society, any measure that saves time is popular. Holiday shopping is no exception. Many people have their gifts mailed directly from the manufacturer to the recipient.
Whether mailing homemade goodies or shipping manufactured delicacies, there are certain responsibilities for the customer and the business.
"Just because a business offers mail-order gifts or just because the homemade gift is shipped correctly does not mean it will arrive safely. Protect your gift," Mixon said.
When sending packages from home, use sturdy boxes to send perishable food. Include a cold source, such as a gel-pack or dry ice. Remember not to touch the dry ice with bare hands. Dry ice should not have contact with the food. Warn the recipient by writing "Contains dry ice" on the outside of the box.
A correct and detailed address is also very important. Do not send perishable items to the workplace because refrigerator space may not be available. It is easy for items to be left at the office or forgotten in the car, especially if the box is not labeled "perishable."
Some delivery companies leave packages by the front door, which in some homes is seldom used. A phone number included in the address can be very helpful to both parties.
Quick and efficient delivery is best for perishable items. Request overnight delivery, and send packages at the beginning of the week so they do not sit in the mailing facility over the weekend. Use permanent markers to address the box and alert the receiver that a package will be arriving.
"The surprise does not have to be given away for mailing a gift for Christmas; just tell them to be expecting a package so it doesn't stay by the front door for a week," Mixon said.
When possible send items that do not require refrigeration, such as hard salami, hard cheese and country ham.
More information is available online from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/oa/topics/mailorder.htm.