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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, you need these simple tips for sending perishable food and other things!

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Types of Perishables Foods Shipped

The transport of perishables such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, dairy products, and flowers continues to increase globally every year. 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.

Types of Perishables Foods Shipped

  • 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
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Maintaining the Cold Chain

Various ways exist to maintain the cold chain from origin to destination, depending on the product type, flight duration, 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 susceptible pharmaceutical products. Various types of insulated packaging are available such as cardboard boxes with expanded polystyrene or aluminum sheets. This packaging comes in multiple 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 sometimes the only solution for specific shipments of perishable products. The option of refrigerated or frozen shipping on a large scale or full plane load is unavailable. This is due to perishables good’s short shelf life and ensuring the item arrives usable to the consignee.

  • Air Freight Services
  • Air freight
  • Reefer and frozen air freight
  • Logistics Services


Using air freight to transport products that need to be maintained at a specific temperature is very risky 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 times 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 flight duration, connection times, cut-off times for each flight, clearance times, etc.

  • Air freight
  • Sea Freight
  • Customs Broker (Willson)
  • Logistics, Distribution, and Warehousing
  • Project cargo

How to Ship Perishable Food

Packaging is one of the essential 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 are sealed bags of liquid coolant that absorb heat and maintain temperatures. Although they are not usually considered dangerous goods in air freight, they 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 wholly 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 exterior packaging materials include styrofoam boxes, corrugated cardboard boxes, crates, and pallets. Styrofoam boxes offer the most insulation for perishable items, and thicker foam provides 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 interior packaging materials to help secure your load inside the box.

Additional materials may be needed. Insulated liners, 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, add-on services are available and should be considered.

Freeze protection services are shipping accessorial or add-on services you can choose/add during the freight quote process. Freeze protection services protect your cold-sensitive freight from freezing when your shipment passes through frigid regions or is shipped during winter. Remember, even temperatures that dip below 32 degrees briefly could cause significant 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 ensure your freight receives the specialized services it needs.

Your freight goes to the front of the line when you choose expedited shipping. 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 ensure your shipment receives the care and attention it needs to arrive safely. FreightCenter is a third-party logistics provider (3PL) that earned the Food Logistics 2020 Top 3PL & Cold Storage Provider recognition for helping shippers find the best temperature-controlled options.

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


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