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   Nutrition & Health
 more...>Family & Consumer Sciences>Nutrition & Health>

Food Safety After an Emergency

After the hurricane has passed, many are in or will be in recovery mode when power is restored and the waters recede. The big question is what to do with the food that has been in the house? Is it still safe to eat?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) makes recommendations for proper handling of food after an emergency. The following information provides tips on how to handle food if there has been a power outage or if flooding has occurred.

Power outages:

  • Never taste food to determine if it’s safe to eat.
  • Check the temperature of the refrigerator or freezer; perishable foods (meats, seafood, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, deli foods or leftovers) that are above 40° F for more than two hours should be discarded.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer and power is out for four hours or more, discard perishable items.
  • If freezer items still have ice crystals or are at 40° F or below, it is safe to cook, eat or refreeze.
  • Discard freezer items where the power has been out for over 48 hours.
  • Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

If flooding has occurred:

  • Discard all food that has come in contact with flood waters; this includes canned goods (store bought or home canned).
  • Do not eat food packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth, and similar containers that have been water damaged.
  • Drink only bottled water that has not come in contact with flood waters. Also, check local announcements that provide updated information on the safety of the water supply.
  • Discard wooden cutting boards, wooden utensils, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers
  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse, and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 min. in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse, and then sanitize by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air dry.

By following these recommendations, you can protect yourself and your family from hazards that can cause food to be unsafe to eat after an emergency. Always remember the error proof rule - when in doubt, throw it out!

Sources

Keeping Food and Water Safe Before, During and After a Disaster, LSU AgCenter
Food Safety for Consumers Returning Home After a Hurricane and/or Flooding, USDA
Food Safety in a Power Outage, USDA

Last Updated: 11/24/2014 11:53:39 AM

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