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Guide to shipping perishable food items internationally

Shipping with DHL · 4 Mins Read

Guide to shipping perishable food items internationally

Perishable foods are food items that go bad if they are not kept cool at specific temperatures. They have short shelf lives and need to be refrigerated or kept frozen. Examples of perishable foods include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products (eg. butter, cheese, cream, etc.)
  • Fruits 
  • Vegetables 

Local businesses in Singapore looking to export perishable food items can benefit from the rising demand in the Asia Pacific. According to a joint report by PwC, Temasek and Rabobank in 2021, Asia is the largest region in the global food market – taking up 50% of the share in 2020. Consumers are forecasted to spend an additional US$4.4 trillion on food over the next 10 years. These consumers are also seeking value in purchases instead of only affordability, emphasising health, freshness and sustainability, beyond taste.

These statistics reflect the lucrative domain businesses can tap on when looking at global trade, but smooth deliveries can only occur when the right processes are followed. This guide discusses all you need to know about shipping perishable food abroad, including packaging instructions and the documents required for customs clearance. If you’re intending to ship mooncakes, poultry, fruits, vegetables or other perishable food, read on to learn how you can do so.

1. Documents required to ship perishable food

In Singapore, the export of food products is regulated by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA). Key requirements include the following:

  • Eligibility: Check whether your destination country allows the importation of your perishable goods.
  • Licence: You must apply for a trader’s licence from the SFA when shipping perishable items based on specific food classifications. Please note that processed eggs, processed food and food appliances will not require the trader’s licence.
  • Permits: You must also obtain a customs permit and export permit through TradeNet before exporting these items. For the export permit, you need to supply key information about the perishable foods being shipped, including their licence number, product codes, quantities, and health certificate number. 
  • Pre-approvals: You also need to seek pre-approvals from the Competent Authority of the importing country before your products are allowed for entry.
  • Export documents: Depending on the country to which meat products are being shipped, you may be required to prepare a range of export documents, such as the Export Health Certificate and Free Sale Certificate.

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Aside from the above, when shipping frozen and perishable food internationally, you also need to provide the following documents:

  • Bill of Lading

  • Commercial invoice

  • Sales contract

  • Certificate of origin

  • Other supporting documents, depending on the country of export

Prohibited and restricted items 

Some countries prohibit certain perishable goods from entering their borders. Therefore, you should always check the destination country’s regulations to ensure that their authorities permit the goods you wish to export. Almost all edible items are classified as restricted when being exported from Singapore. Hence, when shipping perishable items abroad, you will require additional permits and licences from the SFA.


Packaging tips to keep food fresh

When shipping perishable items, you must ensure that they remain fresh during transit. Using the right packaging, therefore, is key. The following tips are important in this regard:

  • Understand each food product's needs: One type of packaging may be appropriate for an item but may not be suitable for others. 

  • Seal properly: Use airtight or vacuum-sealed bags to protect perishable items from air and moisture.

  • Ensure protection: Pack fruits and vegetables in appropriately-sized and well-padded boxes to ensure they do not collide into and damage one another. 

  • Maintain optimal temperature: When shipping frozen food, ensure that the products are kept frozen, both when in the warehouse and during transit, which means sending such items in ordinary mail is not appropriate. You need to ensure optimal temperatures, and you can do so by using gel packs, dry ice or liquid nitrogen technology. Shipping frozen food with dry ice keeps it cold until it reaches the logistics company and begins its journey towards its destination. 

  • Prepare accurate labels: Ensure the package contains the proper labels and handling instructions, including temperature requirements. This ensures everyone knows they need to be handled and kept at specific temperatures.

  • Plan early: Ship the product as early as possible.

Upon packaging these food items properly, the most important step is to partner with a reliable international express courier company capable of transporting perishable foods internationally. You may want to go for the cheapest way to ship them, but paying attention to the service provider’s quality and knowledge is key. At DHL Express, we understand the logistics involved to ship temperature-sensitive goods safely from one destination to another. By employing our best transportation technology and offering same-day or next-day door-to-door delivery, you can rest assured that your products can reach your intended customers in optimal shape, that too in the shortest time possible. Sign up for a DHL Express account today to learn more about how you can securely ship globally.

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