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Packing and Shipping Your Own Perishables

The following article is a guest post from Felicia Baratz-Savage who is a writer and graphic artist living in Indianapolis, IN. As a contributor for Cooks & Travel Books, she specializes in travel, culture and education.

Shipping electronics and other fragile items is a hassle on its own, but shipping perishable items comes with a whole new level of concerns. Not only do you have to worry about protecting items from damage, you also have to protect food items from spoiling during the trip.

Small-business owners who don’t have much — or any — experience shipping perishable food items should be fully aware of the best packing and shipping methods to avoid wasted time and money from spoiled products. Following are a few important steps to keep in mind.

Use the best packing and shipping techniques

Packing perishable food involves a lot more careful planning than most fragile items. Prevent food from being damaged by packing it in insulated foam containers, which should be packed in an even sturdier, thicker container. Baked goods or multiple boxes in one container can be held together with heat shrink wrap to keep them from damage and to preserve freshness.

Keep frozen food frozen

One of the biggest concerns regarding shipping food items is making sure frozen items don’t spoil. Use an insulated container (preferably cooled before shipping) and seal the packaging with plastic tape to protect frozen goods. Dry ice and gel coolants are best for keeping temperatures cool; however, avoid using dry ice with live seafood. Wet ice isn’t recommended for shipping, but if it’s necessary, use special water-resistant packaging to prevent leakage.

Prevent items from freezing

Another concern is ensuring that liquids and other items don’t freeze in colder climates. Gel coolants — warmed to around 72 degrees Fahrenheit (room temperature) — can be used to maintain the desired temperature. Wrap gel coolants around the product, and place it in an insulated container to protect against cold temperatures.

Label everything correctly

Be aware that some perishable items and packaging must be labeled differently than other shippable items, especially containers carrying dry ice. Because dry ice requires special handling during air transport, you’ll need to fill out special paperwork and obtain the necessary labels for shipping. The label should include the shipper’s address, recipient’s address, the weight of dry ice and appropriate warning signs. Check the airline’s dry ice shipping regulations before packaging your materials.

Ship at the right time

Packing your perishables correctly is important, but shipping them at optimal times is equally important. When shipping frozen or refrigerated food, schedule shipping times at the beginning of the week. This ensures that they’ll be delivered with little lag time, whereas shipping them later in the week increases the chances of them getting stuck in a warehouse for a day or two. Ship refrigerated goods by Wednesday, at the latest. And choose a delivery time that’s safest for the items you’re shipping.

Shipping perishable items is a hassle, but using the right shipping and packaging methods helps ensure that your goods reach customers on time and unspoiled.

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