According to the USDA, "With a little bit of advance planning, people can make sure they have access to safe food and water even in the aftermath of severe storms."
Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:
• Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
• Make sure the freezer is at 0°F or below and the refrigerator is at 40°F or below.
• Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
• Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
• Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
• Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
• Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
Steps to follow after the weather emergency:
• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
• The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.
• Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.
• Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below when checked with a food thermometer.
• Never taste a food to determine its safety!
• Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
• Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
• Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety
• When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
For more information, click here to go to the USDA website for the complete article.
Dehydrated and Freeze-Dried Food Storage
Most of these issues with food safety can be minimized or eliminated by storing dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. Having these foods in your food storage is a great way to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters, including winter storms. Click here to read our free online Insight Articles discussing dehydrated and freeze-dried foods.