After the storm: food safety
Here are some guidelines to follow to be certain that you and your family are eating foods that are safe:
- Never taste a food to determine its safety!
- Keep refrigerator/freezer doors closed to maintain cold temperatures.
- Food in an unopened refrigerator should be safe for four hours.
- An unopened, full freezer should hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours; 24 hours, if half full.
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If there is no freezer thermometer, check each package. If the food contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
- Discard any items that have contacted raw meat juices.
- Following an evacuation, if you suspect that the food has been thawed and refrozen over time, the safest plan is to discard the food.
- Discard meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, deli items, and any perishable foods if the refrigerator temperature has risen above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.
- Remember, you cannot rely on appearance or odor.
- Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.
- Discard any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
- Discard cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them.
- Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, glasses and utensils with soap and hot water.
- Sanitize items by boiling (rolling boil for one minute) or immersing them for 15 minutes in three tablespoons of chlorine bleach per one gallon of water. Allow to air dry.
- Dispose of any questionable items.
- Remember: WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
– U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Food Safety for Consumers Returning Home After a Hurricane and/or Flooding“
– U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service: “USDA Consumer Alert: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency“
– University of Florida, Electronic Data Information Service (EDIS) publications
– FEMA / American Red Cross: “Food and Water in an Emergency“
– UF/IFAS Extension offices (local)