Thursday, March 21, 2019

Keep your food safe when the power is out

Today’s guest blog post is by Chrystal Okonta, who is with the Department of Food Safety Education at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. 

Infographic courtesy USDA 
This week, we say hello to spring and goodbye to winter! Many of us have begun tucking away our winter gear. But unlike heavy coats, you cannot put away your emergency preparedness tips. While snowstorms have passed, we have welcomed March winds and April showers.

Every season can cause a disaster. A rainy day could turn into a flood. Heavy wind could blow out your power. Without electricity, your fridge and freezer food could spoil. Lights out can be scary when you don’t know how to keep your food safe. Never fear! You can take steps to avoid food spoilage and reduce foodborne illness. Follow these tips before, during and after a storm or power outage.

• Before the storm

Check your temperatures: Put appliance thermometers in your fridge and freezer. Set your refrigerator to 40 degrees or colder. Your freezer should be 0 degrees or below. If the power goes out, you’ll know if your food is at the right temperature.

Empty your fridge and stock your freezer: During a power outage, the freezer keeps food safe much longer than the fridge. You can put almost anything in the freezer — meat and poultry, dairy, even leftovers!

Make ice in advance: Ice keeps food colder longer. Stock your freezer with containers filled with water, ice trays or ice packs. Also, know where you can buy extra ice if yours starts to melt.

Stock up on nonperishable items: When you don’t have power, nonperishable foods can get you through the storm. There are even recipes that don’t need power! Make sure to store your items in a cool, dry place. Keep them above any potential flooding levels.

• During the storm

Check those temperatures — again! Your refrigerator will only keep food safe under 40 degrees for about four hours without power. But a fully stocked freezer stays cold without power for about 48 hours. A half-full freezer is safe for about a day. Keep the doors shut as much as possible.

Don’t store perishable food outside: Even if it’s cold out, don’t store your food in the car, garage or basement. Instead, keep your fridge and freezer doors closed. You can also use coolers filled with ice to keep your foods below 40 degrees.

• After the storm

Once the power turns back on, check your food. Use this chart to decide which foods to keep or toss.

Refrigerated foods: Your fridge foods are safe if they have stayed below 40 degrees. Good news: Butter, cheeses, canned fruits, juices, bread products, uncut fresh fruits and vegetables are safe even if the fridge gets too warm. But meats and other dairy above 40 degrees can get you sick. Make sure you throw them out.

Freezer foods: Food with ice crystals or that has stayed below 40 degrees can be refrozen. Partially thawed ice cream or frozen yogurt cannot. Throw out unsafe dairy products to avoid getting sick.

Nonperishable foods: Don’t eat foods that touch floodwaters. Never eat food boxed in cardboard if it got wet. Canned goods are safe even in flooding if they are not damaged. Throw away cans that are leaking or damaged.

Use bleach to sanitize cans that touch floodwaters. Mix one tablespoon of unscented bleach with a gallon of water. Take off the can labels and rinse your cans with the bleach solution. Once they dry, these canned foods are safe to eat.

For more tips from food safety experts, call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Information is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time.
You can also email or chat via Ask Karen in English or Pregúntele a Karen en Español.

You, too, can stay food safe during severe weather and power outages!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Raw milk: It’s not worth the risk

By Debora Cartagena, courtesy CDC.
Trying new, trendy foods can be fun. They can even be more healthy than the things you eat every day. But when it comes to raw milk, public health officials warn you could be putting your health and life at risk.

Some people think raw milk is better for them, but they’re wrong. Raw milk is dangerous. The problem is that raw milk isn’t pasteurized. During pasteurization, milk is heated to a high temperature, killing off disease-carrying germs. When milk isn’t pasteurized, germs don’t die. And then you can get sick.

Over a 19-year period, there were almost 130 diseases outbreaks linked to raw milk in the U.S. In February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was looking into cases of Brucellosis in people who consumed raw milk from a farm in Pennsylvania. Caused by the bacteria Brucella, the infectious disease comes from animals and can make people very sick.

Other nasty things that can be swimming around in your glass of raw milk include E. coli and Listeria. The germs can get into milk through animal feces, rodents and dirty equipment.

Anyone can get sick from raw milk and its products, such as raw ice cream or raw cheese. The risk is highest for young children, seniors and people with weak immune systems. But CDC says that healthy people of any age can get very sick and die from contaminated raw milk.

So now you know: Raw milk is gross and unsafe. What can you do to avoid it? Look for milk products that are labeled “pasteurized” to make sure they’re safe. Don’t assume that because milk is labeled organic that it’s OK. It still needs to be pasteurized. If you’re not sure a milk product is pasteurized, don’t eat or drink it.

Once you bring your dairy products home, keep them refrigerated at 40 degrees or below. And be sure to toss any expired products.

For more FAQs on raw milk, visit CDC’s website.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Attention: It’s almost time to set your clocks and check your stocks!

This Sunday, March 10, we lose an hour of time. But what we shouldn’t lose is our sense of feeling prepared.

You can be ready when emergencies happen by keeping a stockpile. When you set your clock — or it automatically resets — for daylight saving time, use it as a reminder to check your emergency supplies. That way, you won’t be missing important items when you really need them.

Get Ready’s Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign helps you keep your supplies updated. Follow our three easy steps twice a year when checking your stockpile:

  • Second, replenish supplies that are out of date or missing. We’re all guilty of “borrowing” supplies from our stockpile. So make sure you replace anything you took out. If your food is going to expire soon, use it. Then, put in new nonperishable items. Toss the supplies that are already expired or damaged. Don’t forget to replace them! 
  • Third, store supplies in an easily accessible container. Store everything in one spot that you can get to easily. Make sure it’s a cool, dry place. You can also store supplies outside the home. Keep a go-bag at work, school and in your car. Remember to check your go-bag when you set your clock as well! 

Get more tips and resources to share in your community.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

New infographics share 10 fast facts to help you prepare

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed these days. You might even feel it’s hard to find time to prepare for emergencies. Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign is here to help you stress less. We have two new infographics with five fast facts that everyone can use to get prepared. 

Our new infographic on “go-bags” will help you get ready to go quickly during an emergency. You’ll learn five essential types of supplies you need in every go-bag. The infographic is quick and easy to follow. If you’re wondering why you need a go-bag or want more supplies, our go-bag fact sheet can fill you in.

Measles has been in the news lately, and for good reason — it’s dangerous. It’s really important to get vaccinated and protect yourself, your family and community from this highly contagious disease. Our new measles prevention infographic can help you share that message.

Get Ready infographics are perfect for sharing at the office, at school, in the community or at home. Check out our full lineup. There’s even space at the bottom to add your logo!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Be ready for winter chills

Winter 2019 has been record-breaking. Remember that deadly polar vortex that froze much of the Midwest in January? Chicago felt a wind chill of 51 degrees below zero. Brrr!

There’s almost a month of winter still left. This week’s storm that blanketed the mid-Atlantic with snow and ice and shut down the federal government in the Washington, D.C., area was a timely reminder that winter isn’t over. As temperatures drop, be aware that winter chills can bring cold weather injuries and emergencies.

One risk is frostbite. It can occur when you are exposed to extreme cold. It causes your body tissues to become frozen, and can even damage your muscles and bones. The first signs of frostbite are redness, pain and numbness.

If you recognize the symptoms, seek medical care. Go to a warm room. Remove wet clothes and soak in warm water. Do not walk on frostbitten toes or rub your skin. You can cause more damage!

You might also be at risk of hypothermia if you spend a long time in very cold weather. It happens when your body loses more heat than it can produce and leads to a lower body temperature. Symptoms are shivering, confusion, memory loss and slurred speech.

Take your temperature if you notice signs of hypothermia. If it’s below 95 degrees, get emergency medical attention right away. If medical help isn’t available, follow the same steps for frostbite. Start by warming the center of the body — chest, groin, neck and head. Warm, non-alcoholic beverages can help increase body temperature.

You can take steps to prevent cold-related injuries by dressing the right way for the weather.  Cover your skin, including your face, hands, ears and neck. Wearing layers, gloves, a hat and sturdy boots will help keep you warm.

Be a good neighbor and help others get ready. People who are homeless are most in danger of cold-related injuries. You can help by donating warm blankets, clothes and other emergency supplies to your local shelter.

Don’t let arctic winds freeze you in your steps and keep you from being prepared. Stay warm and safe!