December 2, 2004 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Receiving favorite food gifts creates a memorable holiday tradition, especially when the giver and receiver protect the presents.

"When sending perishable food gifts, whether homemade or mail order, it is your responsibility to be sure they are delivered and received in a timely manner," said Sandra Bastin, Extension food and nutrition specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Likewise, it is the recipient's duty to make arrangements to receive packages in a timely fashion and follow proper food safety practices."

People who prepare perishable foods at home should pack them in a sturdy box with a cold source such as frozen gel packs or dry ice, being sure the dry ice does not directly touch the food. Clearly label the box with the correct, complete address. Also write "perishable" and "keep refrigerated" on the outside of the box. 

"If you package perishable foods yourself, the recipient will appreciate your including storage and preparation instructions," Bastin said.

"Always find out when the gift is expected to arrive and alert recipients of this date," she said. "Do not send perishables to businesses or other locations that may not have adequate refrigeration. It is best to send packages at the beginning of the week so they will arrive before the weekend and do not remain in the mailing facility."

Food gifts that ship well include date or fig bars, coconut squares, pound or spice cake, fruit breads or gingerbreads and hard candies such as peanut brittle and rock candy. Items that do not include layer cakes and yeast breads.

Specify an accompanying cold source and rapid delivery, preferably overnight, when sending a perishable food gift from a catalog, Internet order or other source. Be sure the gift will have storage and preparation instructions. It should be packed in foam or heavy, corrugated cardboard.

"If you've been notified to expect a perishable food gift, immediately open it, check the temperature and read the storage instructions," Bastin said. "Most perishable meat products should arrive frozen, or partially frozen with visible ice crystals or cold to touch. Cheese products should be cold to the touch. If a perishable food gift arrives warm, do not take even a very small taste to check it. While country hams are safe at room temperature, other smoked meats may not be. This is why it is important to read and follow the storage and preparation instructions. "

The county Cooperative Extension Service has more details on how to properly send and receive perishable food gifts.


Writer: Ellen Brightwell 859-257-4736 ext. 257
Source: Sandra Bastin 859-257-1812