Friday, August 26, 2011

Preparedness and Food Safety for Severe Storms

“ If in doubt throw it out” that’s the advice from Food safety experts at the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture . Illnesses caused by food borne bacteria can be among the greatest problems caused by a severe storm. Both loss of power and flooding pose a threat to your food supplies

Before the storm hits:          

Freeze bottles of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.

Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.

Find out where you can buy dry ice and block ice, so you'll know where to go.

Stock up on food items that don't require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on the outdoor grill.

In a prolong power outage, frozen and refrigerated foods can be contaminated with bacteria that will grow once the temperature of the food gets above 40°F.  All of this can seriously affect the health of you and your family. To reduce the risk of contamination we offer these tips if there is a loss of power:

Foods in the Freezer                            

  • If you keep your freezer door shut as much as possible foods could stay frozen for 1-3 days, depending on these things:
    • The amount of time the door is open;
    • The more food in the freezer, the longer all foods will stay frozen;
    • The room temperature outside the freezer; and
    • The larger and better insulated the freezer, the longer the foods will stay frozen.
  • Frozen foods that have thawed but are still chilled at temperatures not exceeding 40°F should be:
    • Cooked and then frozen, OR
    • Prepared and eaten, OR
    • Thrown away.
  • Partially frozen foods such as fruit, vegetables or meat that still have ice crystals on them can be refrozen.
  • Do not refreeze ice cream.
  • Do not refreeze frozen dinners.
  • If your friends have electricity, ask them to store your frozen foods in their freezers. Also, your church or local schools usually have large commercial size freezers and they may be willing to store your frozen foods.
  • Use block ice or dry ice if available. Twenty five pounds of dry ice will keep a ten cubic foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Be sure to wear dry, heavy gloves when handling dry ice.

Foods In The Refrigerator

  • Keep the refrigerator door shut as much as possible. This could allow the food to stay chilled for 4-6 hours.
  • Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
  • DO NOT TASTE FOODS! Bacteria may not always smell, have a taste or be visible.
  • Throw away any of these foods that have been at room temperature for 2 or more hours:
    • Raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood, meat topped pizza or lunchmeats.
    • Casseroles, soups and stews.
    • Milk, cream, yogurt, soft cheeses, cottage cheese.
    • Mayonnaise, tartar sauce and creamy dressings.
    • Cooked pasta, potatoes, rice and salads.
    • Cookie dough.
    • Eggs and egg substitutes.
    • Custards, cream filled pastries, chiffon and cheese pies.
    • Gravy.
  • These foods can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days and still be safe as long as they have not been touched by flood waters:
    • Butter or margarine.
    • Hard and processed cheeses.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Fruit juices.
    • Dried fruits and coconut.
    • Fresh herbs and spices.
    • Opened jars of vinegar based salad dressing, peanut butter, jelly, relish, mustard, ketchup, olives and barbecue sauce.
    • Flour and nuts.
    • Fruit pies.
    • Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, bagels.
  • Use block ice or dry ice if available. Be sure to wear dry, heavy gloves when handling dry ice.

When the power comes back on:        

If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the thermometer reads 40 degrees F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe. But if in doubt throw it out!

Resources: American Red Cross Disaster Services, Food and Drug Administration,
                   U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

No comments:

Post a Comment