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woman eats corn on the cob

Storm Prep 2018: Food safety AFTER the storm

As we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, severe storms often result in extended power losses and flooding. Many of you did a tremendous job of preparing for these calamities, protecting your health and keeping your food supply safe by taking the necessary precautions. After a storm, it’s important that your food supplies remain safe. Here are some key steps to assure 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!

Sources:
– 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)

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