Storms not only put our lives and homes at risk but also the food we eat. Just as there are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our property, we can act to ensure the food we eat after the storm is safe to eat.
Many of us in the US have battled through some rough weather in the past and more is sure to come in the seasons ahead.
If we didn’t have to batten down the hatches against a hurricane or tornado, we faced hail damage, the loss of power or flooding in our kitchens.
These catastrophic events may have meant that the food in your kitchen may not have been safe to eat.
Food Safety Tips for Storm Season
Here are some tips to prevent illness and food waste now and in the future when the next storm strikes.
- Keep meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy refrigerated below 40 degrees and frozen below 0 degrees. If the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as you can to prevent temperature loss.
- The food will keep for four hours in a cold refrigerator if the door is kept closed.
- A full freezer will keep food safe without opening the door about 48 hours and a half full freezer will hold for 24 hours.
- If you expect the power to be out for longer than that, get some dry ice or blocks of ice to place in the unit to keep it as cold as possible until the power returns. You may need 50 pounds of dry ice to keep an 18-cubic foot freezer cold for two days.
- Use perishable foods by cooking on an outdoor grill to avoid having to discard them.
- Don’t forget to keep a manual can opener in the pantry so you can use your food in the event of a power outage.
- Keep food coolers on hand and gel packs in the freezer in case of power outage so you can store important items more easily at the proper temperature.
- If you live in a flood prone area, keep your units out of danger from contaminated water which could invade your food.
- Use digital or instant-read food thermometers to be sure the food has been kept at safe temperatures or cooked thoroughly after an emergency.
- Appliance thermometers will indicate the temperature in the unit despite a power outage.
- Do not eat food that has been in contact with contaminated flood waters.
- Discard any damaged food cans. Wash cans with soap and hot water, then sanitize can either in a boiling water immersion or wash with a chlorine bleach (1 Tablespoon) and water (1 gallon) mixture. Air dry cans.
- Clean counter tops, work surfaces, cooking equipment and utensils thoroughly if contaminated by flood waters. Sanitize all surfaces after cleaning.
- If you are worried about the safety of your water, use bottled water. If that is not available, boil your water one minute, cool and store in covered clean containers. If boiling is not possible, use household bleach (1/8 teaspoon or 8 drops) mixed in a gallon of water. Let stand 30 minutes before you use it to disinfect contaminated water.
- Do not store frozen food out in the snow in the case of power failure since the sun and temperature fluctuations may cause the food to leave a safe temperature zone and allow bacteria to grow.
- You can safely refreeze food that contains ice crystals or has remained at 40 degrees or below following a power outage. Be careful not to use food that has been contaminated with raw meat juices. Examine each item carefully before refreezing.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
A little advance planning and preparation can help your kitchen — and your family — weather the next storm and stay well!