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Remember food safety in storms

With Tropical Storm Ernesto recently on the horizon, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service urges consumers to prepare for possible adverse weather by reviewing USDA's recommendations for keeping food safe before, during and after a hurricane or thunderstorm especially one accompanied by power outages and flooding.

If a power outage occurs, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. Each time the door is opened, a significant amount of cold air is lost.

The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours; 24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed.

Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below. Never taste a food to determine its safety!

Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer 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 full freezer for two days.

If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the temperature is at 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.

If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, then check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, or is at 40 degrees or below the food is safe.

Discard refrigerated perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.

When flooding occurs, do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.

Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling; leakage; punctures; holes; fractures; extensive deep rusting; or crushing/denting.

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you take these precautions.

Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria. Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available. Then, sanitize them by immersing in a freshly-made solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water or the cleanest, clearest water available for 15 minutes. Then air dry for a minimum of one hour before opening or storing.

For more information on keeping your food safe, give me a call at, 706-595-1815.



Web posted on Thursday, September 07, 2006













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