Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Food Safety Tips for Hurricane Season

Mother Nature has certainly unfurled her wrath worldwide lately. I hope this year’s hurricane season is a washout and not the utter madness it’s been in previous years. Here are some food safety tips during hurricane season:

As the 2008 hurricane season approaches, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the City of Miami hosted a hurricane preparedness and recovery event to help minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to power outages and other problems often associated with severe weather.

“The first 72 hours after an emergency are critical,” said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. “Your first line of preparedness is to have a plan for your basic needs for the first 72 hours where you can keep your family safe until further help arrives.”

The City of Miami recommends households and other facilities maintain a 72-hour supply of items such as water, food, medicine, cooking supplies, and other personal care items.

In the hours after a tropical storm or hurricane, food safety can become a critical public health issue. After several hours without electricity or a cold source, perishable foods can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly in temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.

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 in 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 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.

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!

–If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
–If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
–Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.
–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.

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.

–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.

When in doubt, throw it out!

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