Thursday, July 18, 2013

Keeping food safe during flooding and power outages

Disasters can strike when you least expect them. Knowing how to properly store food ahead of time can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illnesses.

Two of the most common emergencies that can happen in the summer are flood and power outages, both of which can affect your food and make it unsafe to eat.

Keeping food safe during power outages:

It’s important to keep meat, poultry, fish, eggs and other perishable food at or below 40 degrees and frozen food at or below 0 degrees. But how can you tell what the temperature is if the power is out? The answer is with an appliance thermometer. You should have one for both your refrigerator and freezer.

To keep your foods cooler for longer during a power outage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture advises you to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours and a full freezer will stay cold for about 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full. (It’s a good idea to print this information out and save it somewhere you can find it when the power goes out.)

If your refrigerator has been without power for more than four hours, discard any perishable food, USDA says. Never taste the food to test its safety!

Keeping food safe during and after floods:

After a flood, drink only bottled water, as public water supplies may be contaminated. If bottled water is not available, boil tap water for safety. Before using dishes, metal pans or utensils that have touched floodwater, wash them with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water.

Losing food to flooding can be devastating, particularly if you have a lot of it. It’s normal to want to save it. But it’s just not worth risking your health or the health of your loved ones.

After a flood, make sure to throw away any of the following if there is any chance it came in contact with floodwater:
  • food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil or cloth;
  • spices, seasonings, flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples;
  • unopened jars with wax cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise and salad dressings;
  • all canned foods; and
  • wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!

For more information, check out our Get Ready food and water safety fact sheet and get more tips on food safety from USDA.

No comments: