Mail Order Food Safety

perishable package

In today’s busy world, one time-saver some individuals use is home delivery of mail order foods. Ordering food through the mail raises concerns about food safety. It is important to know how food and the packaging should look when perishable foods—such as meat, poultry, fish, and other perishable items—arrive.

How to determine if foods have been handled properly:

  • Perishable items should arrive cold or frozen and packed with a cold source, in foam or heavy corrugated cardboard.
  • Food should be delivered as quickly as possible—ideally, overnight. Perishable items and the outer package should be labeled “Keep Refrigerated.”
  • When you receive a food item marked “Keep Refrigerated,” open it immediately and insert a food thermometer in the food to be sure the temperature is below 40°F. Food should arrive frozen or partially frozen with ice crystals still visible or at least refrigerator-cold. Even if a product is smoked, cured, vacuum packed, and/or fully cooked, it is still a perishable product and must be kept cold. If a perishable item arrives above 40°F, as measured with a food thermometer, do not consume or even taste the suspect food.
  • You cannot tell that food has been mishandled or is unsafe to eat by tasting, smelling, or looking at it. Make sure perishable foods are not held at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F for longer than two hours. Bacteria grow rapidly in this “Danger Zone.”

Source: USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service


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