Shipping Something Perishable? Here’s What to Know

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Anything that needs to be kept at a certain temperature range to remain safe to eat or in good condition is considered perishable: fresh produce, meat, dairy, frozen foods, live seafood, and fresh flowers all fit the bill. While shipping these items around the country presents its challenges, it’s certainly not impossible to successfully ship all kinds of perishable items.

You just need to know what to do to ship perishables successfully. You need refrigerant packs and insulation. You should talk to your shipping carrier about cold shipping. You should use temperature indicators to ensure that your perishables really have been kept at a safe temperature range throughout transit. Keep perishables fresh by getting them to their destinations as fast as possible, and make sure you label your perishable shipments so that your carrier knows to keep it chilled and deliver it quickly.

Perishable Shipments Require Appropriate Insulation

Anything perishable that you wish to ship should be wrapped in the appropriate insulation. Use watertight plastic shipping bags that are at least 2 millimeters thick to double bag any perishables that contain water or that might release liquid, to keep them from leaking. Place your perishable items into a foam container, lined with waterproof plastic, and layered on the bottom with something absorbent to collect any moisture that leaks out of your refrigerant packs or the packaging contents. Place that styrofoam box inside a sturdy outer cardboard box or wooden crate.

Refrigerant Packs Are Not Optional

You absolutely need to use refrigerant packs when you’re shipping something that needs to stay chilled or frozen. Gel packs, dry ice, or wet ice packs can all be used to keep your perishables cool in shipping. Gel packs are recommended for items that need to stay cool – they will keep your perishables at a temperature range of 32℉ to 60℉. You can also use wet ice packs to keep perishable items cool, but gel packs are preferred because they stay frozen longer than wet ice. Dry ice is recommended to keep frozen items frozen, but you can’t seal it up in an airtight box because it releases carbon dioxide as it sublimates, and that gas needs to escape from the packaging.

Tape refrigerant packs down to the sides or bottom of your styrofoam container so they don’t shift around in transit and damage your perishable goods. Surround the perishable goods with refrigerant gel packs or dry ice as needed. Make sure that dry ice doesn’t come into direct contact with food (don’t touch it with your bare hands, either). If you’re using dry ice, make sure you label the outside of your box accordingly. Never ship live seafood or fresh flowers with dry ice – use gel coolant packs instead.

Talk to Your Carrier About Cold Shipping

Many carriers offer temperature-controlled shipping options for perishable shipments. They may also provide you with specialized shipping containers designed to keep your shipments cool. Cold shipping may involve the use of refrigerated trucks, special care in handling the load, and expedited shipping.

Monitor the Temperature of Your Perishable Shipments

With most perishable items, it’s important that your customer knows for sure that the goods actually did remain within their safe temperature range during shipping. You can include temperature indicators in your shipments so that customers have some warning if the shipment reached an unsafe temperature during transit. That way, you won’t have to worry about customers getting sick because your perishable food shipment wasn’t kept cold enough, and they had no idea.

Use the Fastest Shipping Option for Perishables

The faster your perishable shipments reach their destinations, the less time they have in which to spoil. Always use the fastest shipping option available to send perishable shipments. Overnight shipping is preferable, but two-day shipping might be sufficient, depending on what you’re shipping. Send packages at the beginning of the week so they have time to reach their destinations before the weekend.

Label Your Perishables

You should always label perishable shipments so that both your carrier and your customer understand that these shipments need to be moved quickly and opened up immediately upon receipt. Customers will need to be alerted of the impending arrival of perishable shipments so they can get them into the refrigerator or freezer as soon as they arrive.

Shipping perishable items aren’t as difficult as it might seem, as long as you use the right packing materials and ship the items as fast as you can. With the right materials and precautions, you can successfully ship frozen and fresh items anywhere in the country.



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