How to Ship Perishable Food

How to Ship Perishable Food

From shipping food to beverages to transporting medications and more, if your business ships perishable items, then you need these simple tips for how to ship perishable food and other items!

Types of Perishables Foods


The transport of perishables such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, dairy products and flowers continues to increase globally on a yearly basis. This is due to growing consumer demand for healthy and fresh produce all year round, irrespective of seasonality. Since most perishables and fresh produce have short shelf-lives, air cargo is the preferred mode of transportation, providing a unique capability to quickly react to changing conditions.

Some of the perishable goods shipped by air are:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Spices and Dried Herbs (although most are sent by sea)

  • Flowers, Tropical Flowers, and Potted Plants

  • Cut Flowers and Florist Greens

  • Meat and Meat Products

  • Seafood

  • Shellfish

  • Cheese and Dairy Products

  • Eggs

  • Baked Goods and Confectionary

  • Cosmetics Products

  • Pharmaceutical Products

  • Frozen Food

Maintaining the Cold Chain


There are a variety of ways to maintain the cold chain from origin to destination, depending on the type of product, the duration of the flight and connection times.

Unit Load Devices (ULDs)

Equipped with a motor, batteries and a dry ice compartment that maintains the temperature for up to 72 hours, ULDs are the ideal solution for highly sensitive pharmaceutical products. Various types of insulated packaging are available such as cardboard boxes with expanded polystyrene or aluminum sheets. This packaging comes in various sizes and is usually sufficient on direct flights if combined with a coolant.

  • Isothermal containers.

  • Insulated packaging.

Refrigerated and Frozen Air Freight For Foodstuffs


Air freight is the only solution for certain consignments of perishable products either because of their short shelf life or because the option of refrigerated or frozen shipping groupage, or full reefer shipping is not available.

Air Freight Services

Logistics Services

It is very risky to use air freight to transport products that need to be maintained at a specific temperature as there are many critical points in the logistics chain that threaten the cold chain. From loading at the point of origin, awaiting loading on the runway (often in the sun), time in the hold (where the temperature can be anything from -18ºC to +20ºC), or waiting time in a warehouse, there are many external threats to the temperature of the product calling for specialist treatment by an expert perishable cargo freight forwarder.

Planning is crucial. Calculations must include not only flight duration but also connection times, cut-off times for each flight, clearance times, etc.

How to Ship Perishable Food


Packaging is one of the most important steps to ensuring your perishable food and temperature-sensitive items remain safe and secure during transit. Here are some pro tips to get you started:

Coolants For Air Freight

  • Dry Ice – Also known as carbon dioxide snow, dry ice is simply carbon dioxide (CO2) in solid form. It comes in different-sized blocks or pellets depending on the intended use. Although dry ice does not create waste, it evaporates and in air freight it is considered a hazardous substance, which tends to increase freight charges and limits the types of planes it can be loaded onto.

  • Gel packs – Gel packs are sealed bags of liquid coolant which absorb heat and maintain temperatures. Although they are not usually considered dangerous goods in air freight, they do tend to be more expensive than dry ice.

  • Liquid Nitrogen – A dry shipper is an insulated cryogenic flask/container that contains refrigerated liquid nitrogen absorbed into a porous lining. It is used to transport specimens. The liquid nitrogen must be completely absorbed into the container lining; there must be no free liquid. Ideal for biological samples, liquid nitrogen can keep temperatures between -150°C and -195°C (-238°F and -319°F) for up to 10 days.

  • Reefer Trailers – “Reefer” is a slang term for “refrigerated”. This is the foundation of your perishable freight shipping journey.

  • External packaging materials – Types of external packaging materials include styrofoam boxes, corrugated cardboard boxes, crates and pallets. Styrofoam boxes offer the most insulation for your perishable items, and thicker foam offers more protection.

  • Internal packaging materials – Examples of internal packaging include bubble wrap, packing peanuts and foam cushioning. Depending on what types of cargo you’re shipping, you may need internal packaging materials to help secure your cargo inside the box.

  • Additional materials might be needed, too. Insulated liners, insulated pads and blankets can also help protect your perishable items in transit and keep them at the optimal temperature.

Freeze Protection Services


Shipping temperature-sensitive cargo and perishable food means that your products are vulnerable to changes in temperature—both heat and cold. To optimize your shipment’s protection, there are various add on services that are available and should be considered.

Freeze protection services are a shipping accessorial or add on service you can choose/add during the freight quote process. Freeze protection services keep your cold-sensitive freight protected from freezing when your shipment passes through extremely cold regions or is shipped during winter months. Remember, even temperatures that dip below 32 degrees for a brief period of time could cause major damage or product spoilage. While the saying goes, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” you might cry over spoiled cargo!

Specialized Equipment for Perishable Food


When it comes to transporting temperature-sensitive items, you not only want to be sure you select the right services but the right equipment also. Your perishable item shipment may need specialized equipment, such as refrigerated trucks. Choosing expedited and refrigeration shipping services ensures your freight receives the specialized services it needs.

When you choose expedited shipping, your freight goes to the front of the shipping line, so to speak. That’s because expedited freight gets priority over regular freight shipments.

Additionally, choosing refrigeration services helps keep your perishable food or temperature-sensitive cargo at the ideal temperature throughout the shipping process.

Choose a Shipping Partner that Understands Perishable Freight Shipping


Work with a trusted, award-winning cold chain freight shipping partner to make sure your shipment receives the care and attention it needs to arrive safely. FreightCenter is a third-party logistics provider (3PL) who earned the Food Logistics 2020 Top 3PL & Cold Storage Provider recognition for helping shippers find the best temperature-controlled options.

Don’t let worrying about how to ship perishable items spoil your day! Ship your perishable food and temperature-sensitive cargo securely and successfully with FreightCenter! Our freight shipping experts are ready to help. Give us a call at 800.716.7608 or get started with a free online quote.

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