Susan Conley (202) 549-7075
Bessie Berry (240) 678-0817
En Español (PDF Only)
WASHINGTON, September 2, 2004 – The U.S. Department
of Agriculture is providing recommendations in advance of the hurricane
expected to hit Florida and the subsequent severe weather that is expected
in the Southeastern U.S. USDA is hopeful that this information will help
minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to power outages.
Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:
- Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer.
An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the
refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine
the safety of the food.
- Make sure the freezer is at or below 0° F and the refrigerator
is at or below 40° F.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in
the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh
meat and poultry that you may not need immediately - this helps
keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of
contaminated water in case of flooding.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power
will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes
and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler.
Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Group food together in the freezer - this helps the food stay
Steps to follow after the weather emergency:
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
to maintain the cold temperature.
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 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
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals
or is at 40° F 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 2 days.
- If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature
of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer.
If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below,
the food is safe.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each
package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains
ice crystals, the food is safe.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry,
fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after
4 hours without power.
- Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.
- Discard all food that came in contact with flood waters including
canned goods. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils,
baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
- Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils
that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and
sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for
15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per
quart of water.
- When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
For additional information on food safety during an emergency,
call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline
(1-888-674-6854); for the hearing-impaired (TTY) 1-800-256-7072.
The Hotline is staffed by food safety experts weekdays from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time. Food safety recordings can be heard
24 hours a day using a touch-tone phone. The media may contact the
USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (301) 504-6258. Information is
also available from the FSIS Web site: http://www.fsis.usda.gov