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Restrictions on mailing or shipping food, including meat with dry ice

By JOE O'CONNELL, cbbqa past President 

Barbecue cooks often need to ship raw and/or cooked meat, spices and other food.  These shipments, whether via the postal service or private shipping companies, must comply with federal law and rules of shipping companies.  This will explain the rules that barbecue cooks are most often likely to encounter.  This information is current as of the date of this story and relates only to domestic shipments (rules for international shipments will vary depending on many other factors).

Federal Express

When cooks want to ship barbecue, including raw or cooked meat, then Federal Express ("FedEx") is one of their first choices.  This is because the shipment must be handled properly and arrive promptly, so that it will not spoil.

Rules on shipping meat and other food

FedEx rules provide that food may be shipped via any of its services, including specifically:

  • FedEx SameDay
  • FedEx First Overnight
  • FedEx Priority Overnight
  • FedEx Standard Overnight
  • FedEx 2Day
  • FedEx Express Freight

However, FedEx recommends that any perishable items be shipped via FedEx Priority Overnight or FedEx 1Day Freight.  See FedEx rules on shipping foodstuffs.  

Disclosure requirements

FedEx requires that all food shipments must be prominently and legibly marked.  See FedEx rules on shipping foodstuffs.

Dry ice as a Dangerous Goods Shipment

If the shipment contains dry ice, the shipment is considered a Dangerous Goods Shipment.  Dangerous Goods Shipments are closely regulated by federal law and by FedEx.  The most common shipment which barbecue cooks will encounter is shipments which contain dry ice, because dry ice is classified as a Dangerous Goods Shipment.  See FedEx rules on dry ice as dangerous goods, especially the last paragraph of Paragraph (A) and all of Paragraph (G), which are included below.

Dry ice may be shipped via FedEx

FedEx permits shipments which contain dry ice.  See FedEx rules on dry ice as dangerous goods, Paragraph (A), last paragraph, which provides:

Except for dry ice, Dangerous Goods other than dry ice are not acceptable for transportation via FedEx First Overnight.  Id.

Dry ice disclosure requirements

FedEx permits shipments which contain dry ice, but the shipment must be packaged properly and must be declared and disclosed.  See FedEx rules on dry ice as dangerous goods, Paragraph (G), which provides:

Dry ice shipments prepared in accordance with IATA regulations do not require a Shipper's Declaration, and there is no special handling fee for transporting dry ice at this time.  However, the dry ice box must be checked and the dry ice information must be entered under the special handling section on the airbill.  Where dry ice is tendered as a refrigerant with Dangerous Goods that require a declaration, the "Dangerous Goods" block and the dry ice block on the airbill must be checked, and the dry ice information must be entered under the special handling section on the airbill.  All dry ice shipments require package marking and labeling.  FedEx is not required to add dry ice to packages in its system.  Prior to shipment, call 1•800•Go•FedEx (800-463-3339)) and press "81" to connect to the Dangerous Goods Hotline for assistance.    Id.

Recommendation

The best policy for shipping meat or other food via FedEx is to avoid using dry ice.  Instead, if possible, use one of the commonly available, self-contained cooling blocks.

If the use of dry ice is necessary, then the customer should telephone FedEx for specific and current rules:  the phone number is 1•800•Go•FedEx (800-463-3339)) and press "81" to connect to the Dangerous Goods Hotline for assistance.

As of September 18, 2001, the FedEx representative said that FedEx permits the shipment of meats packed with dry ice, as follows.  The shipment must be packaged by the customer.  FedEx suggests putting the meat packed with dry ice in a Styrofoam container and insert it into a larger cardboard container.  The package must be taken to a FedEx center (i.e. it may not be left at a FedEx pickup location.  At the FedEx center, the presence of the dry ice must be disclosed, the FedEx will put a label on the box.  There is no additional charge at this time.

UPS

An alternative to FedEx is United Parcel Service (UPS).  When cooks want to ship barbecue, including raw or cooked meat, then UPS is a good choices.

Rules on shipping meat and other food

UPS has no specific rules governing the shipment of food.  Like FedEx, however, UPS recommends that any perishable items be shipped not via UPS Ground but via UPS Next Day Air or equivalent. 

Disclosure requirements

FedEx requires that all food shipments must be prominently and legibly marked.  See FedEx rules on shipping foodstuffs.

Dry ice as a Hazardous Material Shipment

If the shipment contains dry ice, the shipment is considered a Hazardous Material Shipment.  Hazardous Material Shipments are closely regulated by federal law and by UPS.  The most common shipment which barbecue cooks will encounter is shipments which contain dry ice, because dry ice is classified as a Hazardous Material.  See UPS hazardous material spreadsheet at line 624.  (Note that this is an Excel spreadsheet;  a PDF version is available at the UPS website.)

Dry ice may be shipped via UPS

As noted above, UPS classifies the rules regarding dry ice on a hazardous material spreadsheet at line 624.  (Note that this is an Excel spreadsheet;  a PDF version is available at the UPS website.)  However, dry ice may be shipped via UPS, subject to certain quantity, disclosure and other requirements.

In an email sent on September 19, 2001, UPS said:

UPS does not provide a protective service for the transportation of perishable commodities or of commodities requiring protection from heat or cold.  Such commodities will be accepted for transportation solely at the shipper's risk for damage occasioned by exposure to heat or cold.  Please contact our Hazardous Materials Center at 1-800-554-9964 regarding the shipment of dry ice.  If we can assist you in the future, please feel free to contact us. 

UPS permits the use of dry ice in some shipments, but the customer is advised to telephone the UPS Hazardous Material Support Center at 1-800-554-9964 for current information on the types, restrictions and disclosure requirements on shipments that contain dry ice.

Recommendation

The best policy for shipping meat or other food via UPS is to avoid using dry ice.  Instead, if possible, use one of the commonly available, self-contained cooling blocks, like "Blue Ice".

If the use of dry ice is necessary, then the customer should telephone the UPS Hazardous Material Support Center for specific and current rules.  The phone number is 1-800-554-9964.  For general information, call UPS at 1-800-PICK-UPS (1-800-742-5877).

USPS

An alternative to FedEx and UPS is the United States Postal Service (USPS).  When cooks want to ship barbecue, including raw or cooked meat, then USPS is often the most economical choice.

Rules on shipping meat and other food

USPS has published a Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), Number DMM C022, on Perishables.  (This circular is in PDF format.)  The circular has no specific restriction on the shipment of meat, except that the container "must be constructed to protect and securely contain the contents."  Id.

Disclosure requirements

No specific disclosure rules by USPS were found.  However, it is recommended that the package be labeled as perishable.  

Dry ice

Dry ice may be used as a refrigerant.  USPS requires:

A package containing dry ice (carbon dioxide solid) must be packed in a container that allows the release of carbon dioxide gas.  If a fiberboard box is used, enough insulation is necessary to prevent condensation and wetting of the mailing carton.  Id.

Recommendation

The best policy for shipping meat or other food via USPS is to avoid using dry ice.  Instead, if possible, use one of the commonly available, self-contained cooling blocks, like "Blue Ice".

If the use of dry ice is necessary, then the customer should telephone the local post office or check the USPS website for current rules.


Related Resources:

Article Contents

Prime Rib Myth
Copyright law
Hellmann's and Best Foods
Food Shipments
Food Safety
Blind Testing
Bouillon Etc.
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Cooking with Gas
Gas and Taste
Association's Mailing List
American Measurements
Molasses
Not So Low and Slow
Onions Without Tears
Salt Brining
Salt Facts
Salt Myths
Tender Quick
Tanith Tyrr on Kobe/Wagyu
What's Happening
Worchestershire Sauce
Internet Relay Chat
Fun Stuff


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