Here's what health experts say.

By Kelly Vaughan
November 06, 2020
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While it might be your holiday tradition to exchange Christmas cookies with neighbors or to send a batch to loved ones who live far away, many people may question if it's safe to mail homemade treats (or even share them at all) amid the coronavirus pandemic. While state guidelines may prevent close family and friends from gathering together under one roof to celebrate the holidays, health experts—as well as the United States Postal Service—explain how to safely ship homemade food (think: pies, fruitcake, and cookies) to your loved ones across the globe.

So, it is safe to mail homemade food? In short: Yes, so long as the food is packed securely and baked in a clean environment, according to HuffPost. That means washing your hands before and during the baking process and sanitizing countertops. If you want to be extra careful, wearing a face mask while you're mixing cookie dough or rolling pie crust are good ideas, too.

When packing food to ship to loved ones, the USDA recommends shipping perishable items in a foam or cardboard box with a cold source, such as dry ice or a frozen gel pack. Wrap the food in an airtight Ziploc bag or food container to ensure freshness. Perishable foods, like frosted cakes, pies, soft cookies, cookies with fillings, or other high-moisture items, should ideally stay at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below while in transit. Recipients should put a thermometer near the surface of the item and see how cold it is, says Archie Magoulas, a technical information specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. "It should still be 40 degrees or below. You'd be surprised how often people say it feels cold, and when they check it, it may not even be 40 at all."

Choose a shipping box that's slightly larger than the item itself so you can add additional bubble wrap and other protective packing materials to ensure that the food arrives intact. Use a fast shipping method, such as overnight or two-day shipping, to ensure that the food stays cold. It's also a good idea to let your loved ones know that a package is on the way so they can be on alert and refrigerate it immediately.

The United States Postal Service expects shipping traffic to increase for the holidays around December 7th and says that the busiest week for mailing, shipping, and delivery will occur between December 14th and December 21st. Shipping experts recommend sending the packages early in the week, which will reduce the chances of your homemade treats getting stuck at a shipping facility over the weekend.

This story originally appeared on marthastewart.com