While we don't often consider it a top priority, emergencies such as floods, fires, power losses or other types of disasters can jeopardize the safety of our food supply. Knowing how to respond will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs must be kept refrigerated at or below 40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. This is difficult when the power is out! Do not eat foods that have spent time outside of the food safety temperature zone. Try to keep a thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. When the power is out, the thermometer will always indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 °F or below; the freezer, 0 °F or lower. If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.
The refrigerator and freezer doors should be kept closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. An unopened refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours. A full freezer will keep it safe for approximately 48 hours (less if it is not full) if the door remains closed . If possible, get dry or block ice to keep it as cold as long as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days.
If possible plan ahead by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration or can be cooked out of doors. Dry food, canned milk, water, and other canned goods should be part of an emergency food supply. Make sure you have ready-to-use baby formula for infants and pet food. Remember to use these items and replace them from time to time. Their shelf life will vary, but even canned goods will go bad in time. Canned food damage is shown by swelling, leakage, holes, rusting, or denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a can opener. Keep a can opener with the foods.
Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Thoroughly wash food containters and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest water available).
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