The Do’s and Don’ts of Sending Food Parcels Abroad

Thinking of sending some edible treats to a relative or loved one abroad? At ParcelHero we understand that nothing reminds us of home more than the foods we love, so we have put together list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ to help you prepare the perfect food parcel.

When it comes to sending food items abroad via courier, the rules are relatively simple: You cannot send any food items that are classed as perishables (things that can go off or that can spoil during transit). This is the most important rule of all, and as long as you stick to this rule, you will be just fine.

What Food Can and Can’t You Ship Abroad?

Dairy          Food_hamper                 Home_cooked_food              Customs_invoice

Store Bought              Christmas Hampers              Home-Made Food                       Customs
Food Items                                      


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DairyStore Bought Food Items

What Store Bought Food Can be Shipped?

  • Foods must be in the original manufacturers packaging.
  • Food packaging must be sealed and not tampered with in any way.
  • Food label must list all ingredients.
  • Foods must have a shelf life of longer than 6 months from the date of shipping.

All foods that have a shelf life of less than 6 months will be classed as perishables, and cannot be sent via courier, even if store bought.

How to Ship Food Items

  • Don’t send food items that must be kept in a temperature controlled environment in transit (refrigerated, frozen or chilled) as they will spoil by the time they reach their destination.
  • Don’t expect your food parcel to be kept ‘this way up’ during transit.
  • Don’t send foods that are restricted for import into the destination country.
  • Always ensure your food items have a label clearly displaying all the ingredients and the ‘use by date’ because customs authorities may check these upon import.
  • Always package your food items so that they can withstand the parcel being placed upside down during transit, and always wrap individual items separately inside your parcel for optimum protection.
  • Always check the import restrictions in the country you are shipping to, to avoid sending foods that are prohibited at the destination. If you are unsure of how to check this information, then contact ParcelHero for expert advice.

Christmas hamper basket

Food_hamperSending Christmas Hampers

Every year, more and more people chose to cheer up their loved ones with a Christmas hamper filled with delicious yuletide treats. And why not? Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a mouth-watering selection of their favourite Christmas foods?

Fortunately, sending Christmas hampers is usually quite straightforward as long as you stick to the rules.Don’t send hampers that include alcohol or drinks of any kind. Alcohol and flammable liquids are prohibited items and cannot be sent via courier.

How to Ship Christmas Hampers

  • Don’t forget that chocolates can be affected by the heat if you are sending your hamper to a tropical or hot country. Chocolate has a tendency to turn white if exposed to heat, so make sure you opt for white chocolate if this is a concern.
  • Don’t place the hamper inside a box without any internal cushioning and hope this will be enough to keep it protected in transit.
  • Don’t just declare your goods as ‘Christmas Hamper’ on the customs invoice. If you do, then it’s very likely that customs officials at the other end will have to open the hamper to find out exactly what’s inside.
  • Don’t gift wrap the hamper as customs officials may have to open it in order to inspect the contents, and we can’t guarantee they will preserve the wrapping paper.
  • Make sure all items inside the hamper are cushioned and fit snugly inside to avoid any unwanted movement during transit.
  • Always ensure you wrap your entire hamper in several layers of suitable cushioning materials such as bubble wrap before placing it inside the box if you want the hamper to arrive without any minor dents or bruises.
  • Do check that all the items in your hamper are allowed for import into the country you are shipping to. Some countries can be very strict with their import regulations so it’s essential you check this in advance. Contact ParcelHero’s friendly customer service team if you have any doubt about sending your Christmas hamper.
  • Ensure you list all the items you are sending on the customs invoice.


Home_cooked_foodHome-made Foods

Unfortunately, home-made foods and baked goods usually fall into the category of perishable foods as they do not contain preservatives and will therefore go off or spoil during transit.

All food items classed as perishables are not permitted for transport via courier, but here are some useful tips for how you can still get your loved one’s favourite home-made foods to them and spread a bit of joy;

How to Ship Homemade Food:

  • Don’t try and cheat the system by passing off your home-made foods as store bought items as there are penalties in place if you do.
  • Don’t forget that some countries may not allowed certain foods to be imported into their country, so always check in advance that the items you are sending are not classed as prohibited or restricted for import to avoid delays with your delivery.
  • Do send your recipes for your home cooked foods so your loved one can re-create their favourite treats in their own kitchen.
  • Do include store bought ‘baking kits’ and utensils that may come in handy when cooking your recipe.
  • Do include packets of store bought ‘cake mix’ so all your loved one has to do is add water to enjoy a delicious spotted dick pudding that reminds them of home.
  • Do include store bought treats such as their favourite chocolates, crisps and sweets that your loved one cannot buy in the destination country.

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Customs sign in the hong kong airport.

Customs_invoiceCustoms Clearance for your Food Parcel

If you are shipping within the EU borders, then you will be pleased to hear that you parcel will not need to pass through customs clearance before it can be delivered.

However, if you are sending to or from a non EU country your food parcel will have to go through customs clearance and must therefore need to be accompanied by a customs invoice. ParcelHero will help you create this invoice when you book your parcel online, but here’s a few useful tips to help you declare your goods properly to avoid prolonged delays with clearance at the other end;

How to Clear Customs:

  • Don’t assume that customs officials in the country you are shipping to will know what you mean by ‘spotted dick’, so steer away from using local language when preparing your customs invoice.
  • Don’t forget to provide the value of each food item on the customs invoice.
  • Do list all the food items on your customs invoice and include the brand name, so it’s clear to customs officials exactly what’s inside your parcel.
  • Do provide a detailed description of your foods; Instead of writing ‘Spotted Dick’ you should write ‘Spotted Dick Cake Dessert’, for example.
  • Do place an extra copy of the customs invoice inside your parcel to speed up customs clearance in the event that the original invoice is separated from your parcel during transit.
  • Do expect customs official in the destination country to contact your receiver for more information about the parcel; in some cases your receiver may have to obtain an import licence or pay local import duty and tax before the parcel can clear customs and proceed for delivery.

ParcelHero is here to help so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need more information or expert advice on how best to send a food parcel abroad.

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  • joanna

    My son and his wife have moved to San Fransisco and I would love to make them my homemade Christmas Cake as I know that Thanksgiving is bigger than Christmas there so they would love to receive it. Also, I usually make the cake and the pudding a year in advance so it is definitely not perishable. Will I have any customs problems for this?

    • lagenes

      I’m curious, how do you bake the cake a year before eating it?

      • joanna

        It’s the same as I do for our English Christmas Pudding – rum or brandy as added to the mix by soaking the dried fruit in it. It is baked long and slow and the alcohol preserves the cake which after baking is left to go completely cold and then it is tightly wrapped in foil & left for 2 weeks in a cool dark place. After that, the cake is completely wrapped in marzipan and then iced with fondant or glacé icing. It can be kept for years but we always eat ours after one year though we did have our Christmas Pudding after 2 years. It is like wine & whisky, it improves with age!

        I will call the American embassy to make sure I am allowed to send it to my son!

    • T.J. Murtâgh

      Not trying to be rude, but having lived in the US I can assure you Thanksgiving is NOT bigger than Christmas. It’s big but not quite that big.

      • Richard

        Hi there T.J., thank you for getting in touch. Both celebrations are incredibly popular in the US, but many Americans we speak too believe Thanksgiving to be as popular as Christmas. Both are close, either way! Thank you for getting in touch and have a great day.

  • pixelatedcombustion

    *Dessert, not desert.

  • Christine Bridgman

    Can I send home made marmalade to Hong Kong

  • CK Wunch

    Spotted dick is not dug up in the Sahara, Nevada or any other desert, it’s a home made dessert.
    Although if that was the case, perhaps sending them as edibles would make this post outrageously funny.

  • jazzie

    What if i want to send a variety of british sweets to the US? Are there any i need to be aware of? Im a first time sender and would like as much help with this as possible

  • Jess Baker

    Anyone know if I’d be able to send Bacon Flavour Noodles, Walkers and Seabrooks Crisps & Bakewell Tarts to America?

  • rkar

    i would like to send Hickory Farms basket to my in laws in brazil.. anyone know if that’s possible or how to go about that?

  • wesley james.

    I would like to send traditional ‘candy’ to friends in America. A local shop sells these, but they are all sold loose. (they place them in clear plastic bags). Could this be a problem as ingredients are obviously not listed.

  • Chris Glass

    Hi, can you tell me if you can send a few christmas puddings to India? Are there restrictions and what would I need to do? Many Thanks

  • Michelle Anglin Rider

    Can I send a small parcel for Christmas containing cheese that is sold at room temp and meat (summer sausage) sold at room temperature to Russia? Also, how about dried cranberries?

  • Carin Lavagnino

    I am guessing that the 6 month expiration rule means that I cannot ship a box each of Hostess Twinkies and Hostess Ding Dongs from Texas to my friend in the UK , correct?

    • Adam Barker

      I’d imagine so, but you can now get Twinkies pretty easily in the UK anyway if that helps. For Ding Dongs they’re better off using a search engine for American Grocery Stores in the UK. There is a good one in Ladbroke Grove in London (USA Food Store I think, but others are available). Good luck! 🙂

  • poppy

    can I send some foods, which were bought from Amazon, from US to HK?

  • Lav

    It may sound silly but I’m just wondering if I’m able to send Australian candy to Germany? A website has stated I can’t send any food of any kind into Germany, so I’m not sure on their laws as to whether that’s true or not??


  • French Toast Mafia

    Is food that is stored at room temperature but could melt (like chocolate) likely to melt while in transit? Is there anything I can do to stop this?

    • Cold Expert

      Hi French Toast Mafia,
      You are right foods like Chocolates, Cheese and health supplements are best when they are maintained below 86 F. We recommend you to use an insulated liner around your carton that will avoid any sudden temperature spikes and also choose a range of ice packs that are food grade ice packs . If you are shipping medicines ensure they are medical grade ice packs.

  • R Perkins

    Please can you let me now if Chocolate and Tea are now prohibited items that cannot be sent to Canada as I have been told by the shippper that my parcel is being returned because of this