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Food Safety Before and After the Storm

Katelyn Smulligan, Dietetic Intern Bays Pines VA Healthcare System

The stress of preparing for a hurricane can be all too overwhelming. Board up the house, have an evacuation plan, as well as a stockpile of food and water. While many of us have a cabinet of non-perishable items, are there nutritious meals to make with the foods available? What happens to the food in the fridge if the power goes out? Like much of Pinellas County, I evacuated during the recent hurricane Irma. There was no guarantee how my perishable goods would hold up while I was gone, so I tossed the deli meats and eggs and prepared to survive on oatmeal for three days. Provided below is a compilation of useful information and stock-pile tips to keep your wallet and your stomach happy. Oatmeal is not the only option. For more on food safety, visit https://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Severe_Storms_and_Hurricanes_Guide.pdf

Staple food items to have on hand

Peanut butter, canned vegetables, dried fruits, granola bars, canned beans, tuna pouches, canned chicken, condiment packets, rolled oats, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios), shelf-stable pasteurized milk, 100% canned fruit and vegetable juices.

** Note: Be sure to have a can-opener if can does not have a pop-top.

 

Perishable foods that will need to be discarded if held above 400F for >2 hours:

Meat, poultry, fish, milk, soft cheeses, eggs, deli meats, pre-cut/pre-washed fruits and vegetables, cream-based salad dressings, opened jars of sauces, and leftovers.

 

Easy meals to prepare with limited food items. Remember that leftovers will need to be tossed. Only make what you are going to eat.

1 c. rolled oats + 1 c. shelf-stable milk + ¼ c. nuts + ¼ c. dried fruit.

** Note the oats will need time to absorb the milk.

2 (15 oz.) cans of beans (garbanzo beans, black beans, cannellini beans) + 1 (2.6 oz) pouch tuna + ¼ c balsamic or red wine vinegar.

(4.5 oz) can chicken breast + 2 T. hot sauce + 1 whole-wheat tortilla + 2 T. ranch

 

Tips to keep your family safe by keeping your food safe

1.    If you are expecting to lose power, fill up grocery bags with ice and freeze water bottles.

2.    If you lose power, move the ice bags and frozen water bottles to the fridge. Refrain from opening the refrigerator door. Refrigerated food should remain safe for 3-4 doors without power.

3.    Do not rely on your eyes or nose for food safety. Most bacteria goes unseen and un-smelled.

4.    When in doubt, throw it out. Food-borne illness is not worth it.

5.    Bottles of tap water will keep up to 6 months if stored in dry, cool place.