Discard food damaged by severe weatherDuring the summer months, there is the potential for severe, dangerous and damaging weather. While we cannot prevent tornadoes, flash floods or damaging hail, we can certainly prepare ourselves for this weather.
By: Christina Rittenbach, The Jamestown Sun
During the summer months, there is the potential for severe, dangerous and damaging weather. While we cannot prevent tornadoes, flash floods or damaging hail, we can certainly prepare ourselves for this weather.
One important thing to keep in mind before, during and after a disaster is food safety. Inclement weather can disable electricity for an extended period of time, or even physically damage a food supply, affecting the quality of your food.
It is important to remember that refrigerated foods should be kept at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and frozen foods should be at zero degrees or lower. If the power goes out during a storm, it is best to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help maintain the temperature of the unit. If a refrigerator remains closed during a power outage, the food inside will remain safe for about four hours. An unopened freezer will keep foods safe for approximately 48 hours if the freezer is full, or 24 hours if the freezer is half full. If the power is going to be out for an extended period of time, you can keep your refrigerator or freezer cold by using dry or block ice.
If the items in your freezer begin to thaw during a power outage, be sure to check the temperature of your freezer when the power comes back on. If the temperature is 40 degrees or lower, the food is safe to refreeze. Also, if you see ice crystals on the food, that is a good indication that the food is safe to refreeze. Any perishable items that have been warmer than 40 degrees for more than two hours should be discarded.
Stored food can become physically damaged from floodwaters or if high winds damage the structure containing it. Any food that has been directly exposed to this, or is not in water-proof packaging, should be discarded. Any canned items that show signs of damage such as swelling, dents, punctures or extensive rusting should also be discarded. Food that has been commercially prepared in metal cans or retort pouches and shows no sign of damage may be salvageable. However, before you eat this food, follow these steps:
* Remove labels, if possible, as they can harbor bacteria.
* Wash the cans/pouches with hot, soapy water.
* Rinse cans/pouches with water that is safe for drinking.
* Sanitize the cans/pouches by boiling or immersing in a bleach water solution (one tablespoon bleach to one gallon water).
* Air dry the cans/pouches for one hour.
* Use as soon as possible.
For more information on this topic, contact Christina Rittenbach, Stutsman County Extension agent, at 252-9030 or christina.ritten firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Food Safety and Inspection Service website at www.fsis.usda.gov