FDA gives advice to consumers to handle the aftermath of hurricane Frances
The Food and Drug Administration cautions consumers affected by Hurricane Frances
to protect their health and food supply as they deal with the aftermath of the
There are steps that can be taken to maintain personal health and safety during
power outages and flooding following a hurricane.
People can protect themselves and their families after a storm by following
these FDA suggestions:
- In the event power outages or floods occur from hurricanes,
the FDA says the most significant food safety challenge consumers will face
will be keeping refrigerated foods at or below 40 degrees F. and frozen food
at or below 0 F.
- Perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and
eggs that are not properly refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed,
even if it is thoroughly cooked.
- FDA says that if flooding is an issue, consumers will also
need to evaluate the safety of their stored food and the safety of their water
Here's what consumers can do at home to keep their food safe:
Food safety when the power goes out
- 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. Buy dry,
crushed, or block ice to keep your 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 full freezer for 2 days.
- If you will be eating your refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or
eggs while they are still at safe temperatures, be sure they are thoroughly
cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any food borne bacteria that
may be present are destroyed.
- Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source before eating.
- For infants, if possible, 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.
Once the power is restored
- Once the power is restored you will need to evaluate the safety of the food.
If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature
when the power comes back on. If the thermometer stored in the freezer reads
40 degrees F or below the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer
has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine
the safety. Remember, you can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still
contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below, it is safe to refreeze
- Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power is out for no more
than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable
food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above
40 degrees F for 2 hours.
For a list of how to handle specific refrigerated and frozen foods during power
outages, go to www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/pubs/pofeature.htm.
Food and Water Safety During Hurricanes and Floods
- Hurricanes, especially if accompanied by a tidal surge or flooding, can
contaminate the public water supply. Drinking contaminated water may cause
illness. You cannot assume that the water in the hurricane-affected area is
safe to drink. Listen to local announcements on safety of the water supply.
- If you do not have bottled water, and are not sure that your tap water
is safe, follow these directions to purify tap water:
- If you have a heat source available, boil the water vigorously (water
should be bubbling and rolling) for 1 to 3 minutes. (www.cdc.gov)
- If you can't boil water, add 8 drops of newly purchased, unscented liquid
household bleach per gallon of water, stir it well, and then let the water
stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Note that using bleach will not
kill parasitic organisms. (www.epa.gov/OGWDW/faq/emerg.html)
- You can also use water-purifying tablets from your local pharmacy or
sporting goods store. (www.cdc.gov)
- Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard
any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has
come into contact with floodwater. Undamaged, commercially canned foods can
be saved if you remove the labels thoroughly wash the cans, and then disinfect
them with a solution consisting of 1/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water for
clean surfaces. Re-label your cans, including the expiration date, with a
marker. Food containers with screw-caps, snap lids, and home canned foods
should be discarded if they have come in contact with flood water because
they cannot be disinfected.
- Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and
pacifiers. There is no way to safely clean them if they have come in contact
with contaminated flood waters. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes,
and utensils with soap and hot water and sanitize by boiling them in clean
water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup of chlorine
bleach per gallon of water.
For more information on safe food handling, check the Internet at www.foodsafety.gov
or call FDA's toll-free information line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD.
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