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11-29-07, 06:40 AM
Which food can withstand lengthy shipments?
Published Thursday November 29 2007
By Bob Guinn
843-470-3655, ext. 116

The most important thing to remember when mailing food gifts to U.S. service members overseas is to choose foods that are not perishable, can tolerate a range of temperatures and won't break with rough handling. For security reasons, mail will not be delivered to "Any Serviceman," but must have a name and address on the package.

Perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, fish and soft cheese, must be kept at 40 degrees or below to remain safe. These foods cannot be safely left at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Foodborne bacteria that may be present on these foods can double every 20 minutes causing illness in those that eat the food.


The following is a list of suggested food items to send as gifts to military service members. There may be some restrictions on food items based on the destination of your package. Check with your local post office to see if there are restrictions on food items based on the zip code to which you are mailing.

Hard candies and firm homemade sweets such as fudge, pralines and toffee are safe to mail because their high sugar content prevents bacterial growth.

Dried fruits such as raisins and apricots, canned nuts and fruit and commercially-packaged trail mix need no refrigeration. Dried beef or poultry such as beef jerky, turkey jerky or beef slims are safe to mail. Bacteria can't multiply in food preserved by removing moisture.

Dehydrated soups and fruit drink mixes are lightweight and safe to mail. Regional condiments such as hot sauce and Cajun seasonings in packets are useful for spicing up Meals Ready to Eat.

Canned specialties such as corned beef, anchovies, shrimp, dips and cracker spreads make nice treats. Those receiving the cans should be warned not to use any that are damaged or swollen. Foods in glass containers should not be mailed because the container can break.

Dense and dry baked goods such as fruit cakes, brownies, bar cookies and biscotti are good choices for mailing because they will not become moldy.

Commercially-packaged cakes and cookies in airtight tins, dry cookies such as ginger snaps and specialty crackers are good choices.

As an alternative to homemade gifts, some families may wish to send a military member's favorite mail order food.

Shelf stable beef "summer sausage," cheeses, cakes and snacks can be ordered on the Internet or through mail order catalogues. Because of the delivery time and distances between the U.S. and duty stations overseas, do not order any food gifts that must be kept refrigerated for safety.

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding sending food overseas:

What restrictions are there for sending food to service members in the Persian Gulf?

A: For service members stationed in Persian Gulf countries, pork and pork products should be excluded, as should alcohol, since they are forbidden for religious reasons. High-moisture baked goods, such as pumpkin bread are susceptible to molds and are not recommended. Fragile foods such as delicate cookies probably won't make the trip intact. Chocolate in cookies is likely to melt at the high temperatures.

What are the deadlines for mailing packages for the holidays?

A: For information from the U.S. Postal Service on dates for mailing holiday packages and cards see the 2007 International and Military Mail Holiday Mailing Dates at usps.com/mailpro/2007/septoct/page8.html or at usps.com/communications/news/press/2004/pr04_003.pdf .

How should packages to the military be addressed?

A: Use the service member's full name. Also required is the unit designation and APO/FPO information with the nine-digit Zip code and a return street name and address. Do not include the country or the base camp's city, as the package might be routed through the host country's mail system. Place the recipient's address on one side only of the package, and on the lower right portion.

How can I package foods for safe delivery?

A: When mailing firm cookies and homemade candies, wrap each piece individually and pack items in commercially popped popcorn or foam packing "peanuts" to help cushion the trip. Place the food gifts in a sturdy box and seal it securely with packing tape.

SOURCE: Clemson University's Home and Garden Information Center.