Keeping Food Safe When Disaster Strikes!

— Written By

hurricaneWith another tropical storm looming in the forecast, now is the time to consider what you will do in case of an emergency. Loss of power can affect many, and be detrimental if you use your freezer for food storage. Here are food safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
  • A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Prepare now! If you have space in your freezer, fill seal-able plastic containers about 2/3 full of water and place in freezer to provide insulation if power goes out.
  • Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18 cubic foot, fully stocked freezer cold for two days.
  • If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to its proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present are destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more – discard it.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source before eating.
  • For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.

Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.

The Cooperative Extension Service has a helpful website full of information for residents https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/disaster/. Information is available in both Spanish and English. A 50-page handbook is linked on the site and can be saved or printed as a reference. The handbook includes contact sheets that residents can use for family members, directions on how to protect sensitive documents, preparing a disaster kit and what to do with animals. There is also specific information on how to cope after a storm including food safety; power restoration and helping children deal with crisis.