Postal Clerk Info
Perishable Items

The term “perishable” can refer to fruits, vegetables, plants, live or dead animals, fur, hides, skins or pelts.
The most common types of perishable mail are fruits and food products. Most perishable food shippers have an 800 number on their parcels that postal employees are encouraged to use should there be any problems.

If a perishable parcel is not claimed within five days a second notice should be sent to the addressee. If still unclaimed at day ten the employee responsible for reviewing notice left parcels should call the 800 number (if applicable) to inform the shipper.

At this time of year, the amount of perishable food parcels, particularly gift fruit shipments, rises dramatically. For the most part these packages are mailed at the Package Services rate and endorsed “Change Service Requested.” Mailers have confirmed their desire to receive any change of address information as soon as possible, but only address information and the reason for non-delivery – not the perishable food contents.

Once the ten day retention period has expired and every attempt to deliver has failed, employees must take one of the following actions based on the mailpiece characteristics:

1. All undeliverable as addressed perishable food parcels with an Address Correction Service (ACS) endorsement must be directed to your local Computerized Forwarding System (CFS) unit to expedite mailer notification of non-delivery.
2. All undeliverable as addressed perishable food parcels without an ACS endorsement must utilize the 800 number, if applicable, on the perishable parcel to notify the mailer of the reason for non-delivery.

Follow the correct disposition procedures for perishable foods as found in section 691.531 of the POM:
Donate usable food items treated as dead mail impartially and equitably to public or charitable organizations, food banks, shelters, or other nonprofit organizations. Follow these guidelines:
a. Do not donate homemade items. Dispose of them as waste. If unsure whether an item is homemade or usable, destroy it.
b. Make sure that the receiving organization signs a PS Form 6011, Agreement for Acceptance of Food Items, stating that it takes full responsibility for the handling and use of the food items. Keep releases on file for 2 years. The receiving organization must accept the food items available and pick them up in a timely manner.
c. Destroy food items that cannot be donated by disposing of them as waste.

This is an important reminder of existing postal policy and procedures regarding the handling of undeliverable perishable foods. The primary purpose for distributing this document is to stop the incorrect practice of attempting to return undeliverable perishable foods to the sender. In the simplest of terms, perishable food parcels do not get returned to sender.