Your grocery store probably has a good selection of foods imported from overseas. Have you ever wondered how imported foods get from their countries of origin to the local market? Suffice it to say that shipping food overseas is harder than you think. It is not as easy as packing something into a box and taking it to the post office.

Tons of food are shipped overseas every day. Some of it is stable enough that taking several weeks to make the journey is no big deal. But other foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, are considerably less stable. Then you have liquids and semi-solids. They can be a real bear to transport. What does it take to do it right?

  • Knowledge of Rules and Regulations

At the top of the list is a working knowledge of rules and regulations. Before a company can even begin thinking about shipping food overseas, management has to figure out what trade regulations apply. It is not legal to ship just any food to any destination in the world. Likewise, U.S. importers are not allowed to import anything from anywhere.

Across the world, there are countries and individuals with whom the rest of the world does not trade. Likewise, most countries have their own tariff systems in place. All these things affect how food is shipped overseas. Importers and exporters really need to know the rules to stay out of trouble.

  • Choosing the Right Packaging

After the rules and regulations, companies have to figure out the right packaging for their product. The easiest products to ship are those considered shelf stable. What are shelf stable foods? These are foods that exhibit a low risk of spoilage. If you buy canned goods, you have first-hand experience of shelf stable food.

Most shelf stable product can be shipped in standard shipping crates. They may be packed in cardboard boxes first, after which the boxes are stacked on pallets before being loaded into creates. The crates then go on to huge shipping vessels along with other types of cargo.

Shipping fruits and vegetables is a bit more dicey. Shippers often have to use special packaging that does two things: prevents spoilage and reduces bruising, discoloration, etc. Many fruits and vegetables are transported using specialized packing designed specifically for each particular variety.

  • Shipping Non-Solid Foods

The most difficult food products to ship are those that are not in solid form. CedarStoneIndustry, out of Houston, TX, says liquids require either a food-grade tank or a food-grade IBC tote. Semi-solids, pastes, and other non-solid products can generally be shipped safely in IBC totes. But whether you are talking totes or tanks, they have to be food grade.

Food-grade tanks and totes are made with materials that will not contaminate food. They are designed to prevent termination. Generally speaking, they are also designed for easy cleaning and sterilization. To be considered food grade, a tank or tote must meet some extremely high standards.

  • Shipping Meats and Frozen Foods

Though this post could continue, a good way to close is to discuss shipping meats and frozen foods. These types of food products are especially susceptible to spoilage due to bacteria growth. Therefore, extra precautions have to be taken. Items are usually packed in some sort of insulating material and then shipped in a freezer to inhibit spoilage.

Different types of foods require different shipping strategies. Getting food from one country to another is no easy task. Thank goodness people have figured it out. Otherwise, the rest of us would not have access to such delicious imports.