-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Power outages and flooding
caused by "superstorm" Sandy could lead to food safety problems and
people need to take steps to ensure that their food supply is
accessible and safe, federal government officials advise.
"Keeping food at safe storage temperatures in a power outage and away from flood waters is crucial to avoiding foodborne illness in weather emergencies," U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for food safety Elisabeth Hagen said in a USDA news release.
"We encourage residents in the projected path of the storm to include an appliance thermometer, coolers, and dry ice on their Hurricane Sandy preparation checklists. As a last resort for food safety, when in doubt, throw it out," she said.
The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services outlines the food
safety steps you should take to prepare for severe weather:
If the power goes out, you should keep refrigerator and freezer
doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food
cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed and a full
freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours, while a
half-full freezer will keep its temperature for 24 hours, according
to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
If the power stays out for a long time, buy dry or block ice to
keep the refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible. Fifty pounds
of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold
for two days.
When the power comes back on after a weather emergency, you
should check the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. If
it's 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the food is safe. If you don't
have a thermometer in the freezer, check each package of food. If
the food still contains ice crystals or is below 40 degrees
Fahrenheit when checked with a food thermometer, it can be safely
refrozen, the FSIS said.
Throw out any perishable food -- such as meat, poultry, fish,
soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items -- that have
been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40 degrees Fahrenheit
for two or more hours.
Throw out any food that is not in a waterproof container if
there is any chance that it came into contact with flood water.
Containers with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps
are not waterproof. Also discard wooden cutting boards, plastic
utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers that may have come into
contact with flood water.
Wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came into
contact with flood water. Use hot soapy water and sanitize the
items 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 in contact with flood
waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled
Never taste food to determine if it's safe and when it doubt,
throw it out.
The U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service offers
A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe St...s and
Hurricanes, that can be downloaded and printed for reference during a power outage.
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