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Mailing Instructions

Specimen Shipping Instructions and FAQs

The following answers to FAQs and suggested guidelines will assist you in shipping specimens to the NJ AHDL. All shipments should be sent to one of the addresses below based on shipment method:


For shipments via United States Postal Service
Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory
NJ Department of Agriculture
PO Box 330
Trenton, NJ 08625


For shipments via courier (e.g. FedEx or UPS)
Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory
NJ Department of Agriculture
3 Schwarzkopf Drive
Ewing, NJ 08628


Shipping regulations are continually evolving. While we will keep the shipping section of our website and our packaging materials consistent with current regulations, the shipper is responsible for meeting shipping regulations enforced by the local, state, and federal authorities.

What types of samples are included in the regulations?

A diagnostic specimen or a clinical specimen is defined as "human or animal material including-but not limited to-excreta, secretions, blood and its components, tissue and tissue fluids, and body parts being transported for purposes such as research, diagnosis, investigational activities, and disease treatment or prevention."  This definition is quite broad and includes almost all specimens normally submitted to the NJ AHDL.  All specimens that fall within the definition of a diagnostic specimen are subject to special shipping requirements. There are a few specimen types that are exempt from these rules-feed, water, and soil samples are exempt and may be shipped in leak-proof containers using normal procedures. Samples consisting of tissues fixed in formalin also are exempt but do have some special considerations.

What are the Shipping Requirements for Mailing Biological Specimens?

Shipping requirements are based on the contents being shipped:

  • Minimal likelihood that pathogens are present
    For patient specimens for which there is minimal likelihood that pathogens are present, e.g. nutrition samples, serology, etc., the material must be shipped in a box that is marked with the words "Exempt Animal Specimens" and packaged as follows:

    The packaging must consist of 3 components:
    • A leak-proof primary receptacle(s), e.g. vacutainer, serum tube, etc.
    • A leak-proof secondary packaging (For liquid samples, the secondary packaging must contain absorbent material in sufficient quantity to absorb the contents should the primary receptacles be damaged in transport. When multiple fragile--e.g. glass-primary receptacles are included in one secondary package, the primary receptacles should be wrapped or separated to prevent contact between them.
    • An outside packaging (box) of adequate strength for its capacity and intended use
      image of a styrofoam cooler containing a sample and cooling packs 

NOTE: Neither commercial carriers nor the U.S. Postal Service will deliver containers that leak. Certain carriers will not deliver leaking packages, this may affect the turn-around time of the test, or ability to test. Information may be found in this web site. (http://hazmat.dot.gov/training/Transporting_Infectious_Substances_Safely.pdf)

  • Diagnosis of an infectious disease or the samples may contain infectious agents
    If samples are being shipped for the purposes of diagnosis of an infectious disease or the samples may contain infectious agents, e.g. bacteriology or virology samples, tissues from horses suspected of having West Nile virus, etc., they must be shipped in boxes marked with the words, "Biological Substance, Category B" and a UN3373 label.

    The packaging for these specimens MUST consist of:
    • Inner Packaging
      1. Include a watertight (leak-proof) primary container, e.g., vacutainer tube, urine cup, serum tube, etc
      2. Include a watertight secondary packaging containing the primary sample container and appropriate absorbent materials.
      3. The absorbent material must be sufficient in quantity to absorb the liquid in the primary container. If the secondary container (e.g., an approved biohazard bag) contains multiple primary containers, such as several blood tubes, the primary containers must be wrapped or separated to prevent contact between them
      4. Be certified to withstand-without leakage-an internal pressure of 95kPa at a temperature range of -40°F to 130°F. Special biohazard bags, vacutainer tubes, urine cups, etc. are available that meet these requirements.
    • Outer Packaging
      1. Contain an itemized list of the package contents in the box-a fully completed submittal form will meet this requirement.
      2. Have at least one side with minimum dimensions of 4 inches x 4 inches.
      3. Be certified to pass a drop test at 4 feet
What if I need to use dry ice for submission?

If the submitted specimens are shipped with dry ice, the dry ice must be placed outside the secondary container. The outside of the box must be labeled "Dry Ice," "UN1845." The net quantity of dry ice (in Kg.) must also be included on the label. Note: These dry-ice requirements are in addition to the labeling and packaging requirements for diagnostic specimens.

How do I ship samples in 10 percent formalin?

Formalin-fixed tissues are not considered diagnostic specimens because they have been biologically inactivated. Even so, these materials should be packaged in a manner that will prevent any possibility for release of liquids while in transit. This can be achieved through following these 3 simple steps:

  1. Use non-breakable primary containers with a leak-proof seal and reinforce the seal with Parafilm or sealing tape.
  2. Package primary containers and enough absorbent material to absorb all liquids (in the event of a leak) in a secondary container (e.g., larger plastic container or sturdy Zip LockTM bags, etc.).
  3. Use a sturdy outside container to contain the samples.