The sun may not be shining down to heat up our picnic foods right now, but we still have to take steps to prevent food poisoning when the severe winter weather strikes.
The wrath of winter storms creates havoc for school, jobs, and roadways, making our daily tasks more difficult.
Half the country was recently impacted with yet another winter blast that knocked trees down and caused power outages. News estimates that 110 million people were affected by this winter storm alone. States of emergency were even declared by many Governors to deal with the aftermath of the winter weather.
Detective Foodsafe® wants to remind us all that winter storms can impact our food safety too!
Any storm really raging throughout the year that has the potential of causing power outages, especially for extended periods of time, can put us at risk for food poisoning.
Detective Foodsafe’s Top 10 Storm Tips
There are things you can do in advance, during, and immediately after a storm to ensure your family stays food safe.
Detective Foodsafe offers these tips to keep you safe during a storm resulting in loss of power.
- Be aware of the potential for damaging storms and power failures by following the weather alerts for your area. Take action ahead of the storm to be prepared.
- If you lose power, throw away any perishable food that has gotten above 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours.
- During a power failure, avoid opening the refrigerator and freezer to maintain temperature as long as possible. A full freezer can hold food for up to 48 hours and a refrigerator can hold temperature up to four hours if unopened.
- Be prepared to put a few necessary perishable foods, such as milk, into a cooler with ice in case of power outage.
- Don’t store food outside in the snow, as temperatures can vary during the day (not to mention drawing pests) and you may not realize that food temperature has put it at risk. Instead, put containers of water outside to make ice and use that to keep perishables cold safely inside your home.
- Before the storm hits, place pans under the frozen meats and poultry to prevent thawing juices from cross contaminating other foods. Take this time to group foods together and store in some extra plastic bags of ice to further insulate against a loss of power to help the freezer hold temperature as long as possible.
- If you anticipate a prolonged loss of power, make a plan for getting ice after the storm so you can safely store any perishable foods in ice chests during the event. You may want to begin making your own ice in bags or containers in advance of the storm to use if the power goes out.
- After the power returns, inspect each food package to ensure it has not fully defrosted, checking for ice crystals and liquids. Partially thawed frozen foods with ice crystals may be able to be refrozen but proceed with caution.
- Thoroughly clean all refrigerator and freezer surfaces before returning foods to them.
- Never taste a suspicious food to see if it is spoiled. When in doubt—throw it out!
There is no amount of money from lost food items worth the health of your family.
Remember, foodborne illness can lead to hospitalization and even death for some high-risk populations like young children, pregnant women, and older adults.
Having a Storm Preparedness Plan
There is always the possibility of losing power, no matter where you live or what time of year.
Something as common as a traffic accident that impacts a power pole can mean hours without power for your family.
Trees falling in the wind or simply a dead limb falling over a power line can mean your perishable food could lose temperature enough to make you ill. Or your appliance simply decides to stop working, causing all the frozen foods to thaw.
Detective Foodsafe wants you to be prepared anytime to face a power outage to keep your food safe to eat. Luckily, it doesn’t really require that much effort.
Here are some of her tips to stay ready every day:
- Place thermometers inside refrigerator and freezer so that, in case of loss of power any time during the year, you will know if the food is at risk of entering the temperature danger zone.
- Purchase ready to eat foods that you can use during an emergency, including bottled water. Shelf stable foods, including milk and canned goods, can be ready when you are. Keep an eye on the expiration dates of these foods and rotate them out to avoid expired foods when you need them the most. Having three days supply is recommended.
- Organize the freezer so that, in case of an unanticipated power failure, you know what you have and can protect the food so that you don’t get food poisoning or waste your investment. Having organized shelves also helps with the free flow of air to maintain proper internal temperature throughout the year.
- Have a food thermometer handy so that when you are cooking without electric or in unfamiliar surroundings during any power outage you can still be sure the food reaches a proper internal temperature. Color of a food is not a good indicator of doneness.
- Find a buddy who lives across town to do some “freezer sharing” to store your foods when needed if only your power is out and promise to return the favor for them later.
Foodborne pathogens that can make your food unsafe to eat grow quickly when they get the ideal environment.
Unsafe temperatures, time, and moisture that come along with power outages can quickly put your perishable foods at risk and make your storm even more unbearable.
Until next time, Detective Foodsafe will be on the case to keep you safe!