Published on 11/21/15

Be sure gifts of food are safe from foodborne illness

By Judy A. Harrison

Gifts of food to friends and family are common during the holidays.

To help both the gift-giver and the gift-getter keep these foods safe:

  • The gift-giver should check with the company he/she plans to order from to see if a perishable food that needs refrigeration to stay safe will be shipped with a cold source and will be packed in a way to ensure it stays cold or frozen.
  • The gift-giver should also check on delivery. Ideally, perishable food should be delivered as quickly as possible, preferably overnight.
  • Check to see if perishable items will be clearly labeled “Keep Refrigerated” on the package, so that the recipient knows to open and refrigerate it immediately.
  • The gift-giver should check with the gift recipient to be sure they will be at home for delivery before the order is placed. Let the recipient know a gift is on its way.
  • Check items received as gifts that are marked “Keep Refrigerated” to be sure they are frozen, partially frozen with ice crystals remaining or are at least refrigerator cold. Items should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder when they arrive.
  • If perishable food arrives warm or above 40 F as measured with a food thermometer, notify the company. Do not taste or eat the food.

Making sure food gifts are handled properly can mean that illness is avoided this holiday season.

For more information on holiday food safety, contact your University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or visit

Judy Harrison is a food safety specialist with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.