What's Your Food Safety Plan for Hurricane Season?
Kenneth King, Public Affairs Specialist
We've seen the power a hurricane can carry, and the devastation it leaves behind. Prolonged power outages and flood damage are two of the biggest risks to your food. Fortunately, a plan can help keep you and your family safe from foodborne illness.
During Hurricane Preparedness Week, develop your action plan before a storm hits.
- Buy ice packs and coolers days before the hurricane arrives in case there is a prolonged power outage.
- Pour water into containers and freeze it to make ice.
- Use an appliance thermometer to determine the safety of your perishable foods. Meat, poultry, fish and egg products must be kept at 40 F or below and frozen food at 0 F or below.
- For meats, check the canned goods aisle of your local grocery story for canned meats. These are fully cooked and unopened canned meats don’t require refrigeration.
Illness-causing bacteria grow in temperatures between 40 F and 140 F. We call these temperatures the “Danger Zone” for food. Bacteria that develop at these temperatures generally do not alter the taste, appearance, or smell of the food but can make you sick. During a power outage, a refrigerator will keep food safe for up to four hours and a full freezer will hold temperatures for 48 hours or 24 hours if half full.
Caution—never taste food to determine its safety. When in doubt, throw it out! Throw out any food that has been in contact with flood water. This includes any canned foods with signs of damage such as holes, leakages, and punctures. Place foods on higher shelves to lessen the chance of them being contaminated by flood water.
For more information about food safety and for a free food thermometer, contact the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) to talk to a food safety expert or chat live at ask.usda.gov from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.