|Food Safety and Inspection
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
Carol Blake (202) 720-9113
Note to Editors: This press release was updated on March 14, 2002 to encourage consumers to check with their local post offices on possible food item restrictions according to ZIP code. There may be some zip codes to which certain food or other items are not permitted by mail. The food items listed in this press release are only suggestions.
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2002 - Got a special Valentine in the American armed forces? Remember them on Valentine’s Day with a gift of treats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline provides advice and answers questions for safely mailing food gifts to friends and family serving in the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“I am sure that along with a Valentine card or letter, our men and women in the armed forces would appreciate food gifts,” said Elsa Murano, under secretary for food safety. “It’s important to mail food gifts that are not perishable, can tolerate a range of temperatures and won’t break with rough handling.”
Perishable foods are those that must be kept at 40 °F or below to remain safe to eat -- meat, poultry, fish and soft cheeses, for example. These foods cannot be safely left at room temperature for more than 2 hours, much less for a week or more in the mail. Foodborne bacteria that may be present on these foods grow fastest at temperatures above 40 °F and can double every 20 minutes. When this happens, someone eating the food can get sick.
Food gifts that can be safely mailed include homemade cookies and fudge, candy and low-moisture breads like biscotti, brownies and other bar cookies. Good candidates for mailing include dried products such as jerky, trail mix, popcorn, fruits and nuts, shelf-stable canned specialties and regional condiments.
As an alternative to homemade gifts, some families may wish to send a military member’s favorite mail order foods. Shelf-stable “summer sausage,” cheeses, cakes and snacks can be ordered on the Internet or through mail order catalogs. 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.
Murano reminds that, “Friends and families must have a specific address for their service members. Mail addressed to ‘Any Serviceman’ will not be accepted by the U.S. Postal Service.”
Food safety specialists at USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline offer the following advice concerning food gifts for armed forces serving away from home, including those in and near Afghanistan engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom.
The following list of food items to send as gifts are only recommendations. 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.
For additional food safety information about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline’s toll-free number 1 (800) 535-4555; Washington D.C. area (202) 720-3333. The toll-free number for the hearing impaired (TTY) is 1 (800) 256-7072.
The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern time. In addition, food safety information is available on the FSIS Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov.
For Further Information, Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460
News and Information Page | FSIS Home Page | USDA Home Page