Make Sure Your Food Is Safe To Eat
Most of us keep a good deal of perishable food in our homes in the refrigerator or freezer. When a disaster such as a hurricane has occurred, very often electrical power is lost. Often, even a less powerful storm, such as a thunderstorm can cause an outage, and if this continues for a long enough time, the food you have been keeping cold will begin to spoil. In order to keep your family safe from food poisoning, make sure that you observe certain precautions when dealing with refrigerated or frozen food. And remember, do not give spoiled food to your pets – it can make them sick just as it can you and your family.
Time And Temperature Are Important
When your lights go out, make a note of the time as this will be important when dealing with your perishable foods. You should keep in mind that 2 hours are considered the limit for food safety under certain circumstances. The temperature of the food is also important in this regard and if the power has been out for over two hours and the temperature of the food has reached 40 degrees F, it must be thrown out. If it has been under two hours and the food is 40 degrees, it is still safe. If you have canned hams in the refrigerator that are marked ‘keep refrigerated’ they, too, must be thrown away if the time and temperature limit has been passed.
The freezer in your refrigerator will generally keep food safe for approximately one day (24 hours). If your freezer is packed, it will preserve for about double that time. A chest or upright freezer that is filled will keep food fresh for two days, while one that is only half filled will preserve food for only about 24 hours.
Try not to open the doors of the refrigerator or freezer; it will simply let in warmer air. Cover the freezer with blankets to help keep the cold in longer. If you have an access to dry ice, that can be used to keep frozen food safe longer. Be sure, if you do use dry ice, not to inhale the vapors coming off it, and wear gloves when handling it, it can cause severe burns otherwise.
Using your nose to try to determine whether food is safe to eat is unreliable, as food can have a high bacteria count and still smell ‘good’. Go by the time and temperature guidelines to determine food safety and throw out any foods that are outside the safety limit.
Is Your Emergency Food Safe?
Hopefully, you will have a supply of emergency food available so that if the power is out for more than several hours, you and your family will be able to eat safely. Any packages of food that are not waterproof and have gotten wet, such as boxes of cereal or noodles, should be thrown away. Cans that have gotten wet should have the labels removed and must then be washed.
Most emergency food rations, freeze dried or dehydrated foods, are in plastic or mylar packaging so should be safe to use unless the packaging has been broken open in some way. Packages that have been chewed open by mice or rats should likewise be discarded.