The threat of food-borne illnesses and water contamination comes with any natural disaster, including hurricanes. Thus, it’s vital for food managers and aspiring ones to know the safety measures that’ll likely keep food and water safe during and after an emergency. For starters, here are some key steps on how to observe food safety before and after a hurricane:
Before a Hurricane…
- Before the hurricane hits, install an appliance thermometer in the freezer as well as the refrigerator to keep track of the temperature in case the power goes out.
- The temperature in the freezer should not fall below 0°F and the temperature in the fridge should remain at 40°F or less.
- Purchase as much dry ice and ice as you can beforehand.
- Freeze all items that can be refrigerated such as milk, poultry, eggs, meat. This will keep them from thawing too fast if the power goes out.
- Freeze water in large containers and place it in both units to keep food from spoiling.
- All food should be stored high on shelves in case of a flood.
- Keep food closely packed together so they can remain chilled for longer.
- Keep coolers handy in case the power goes out indefinitely. Use it to store extra ice for the freezer and freeze gel packs as well.
During and After a Hurricane…
- After a hurricane, never taste food to check whether it is spoiled or not! You can fall seriously ill.
- Make sure the doors of the refrigerator and the freezer are kept closed at all times to preserve the temperature. A freezer that is full can hold its temperature for 48 hours but only 24 hours if it is not full and the door is left slightly open. The refrigerator can keep the food cool for 4 hours at most.
- If there is no power for a number of days, check the temperature of the cooling units with an appliance thermometer. If the food contains some ice or is at 40°F, it can be frozen again. If you don’t have thermometer, check the food for freshness to determine if it is safe to consume.
- Discard food that is perishable such as milk, eggs, leftovers, meat if power is not back on after 4 hours.
- If you are doubtful about a food item, take the safest course and throw it out.
- How to treat food that is exposed to flood waters
- Discard all food that got wet in flood waters and is not in a waterproof container. Containers that can spring leaks include those that have screw caps, snap lids, pull tops etc.
- Discard home-canned foods, juice boxes, milk cartons, and formula boxes. These cannot be sanitized if they come in contact with flood waters.
- Discard all damaged food cans. These include cans that are swollen, punctured, have holes in them, are rusted or are too dented to be opened or stacked easily.
- All utensils, pans, pots and dishes should be washed and sanitized easily and this includes can openers. Use soap and water, rinse them out and sanitize them by immersing them in hot water for 15 minutes at least. Add some chlorinated bleach to the water as well.
- All countertops should also be washed thoroughly with soap and hot water. Use the same method mentioned before for the solution you use and allow the clean countertops to air dry.
A hurricane can wreak havoc in your home and if you have one to go back to, it can still be recovered and cleaned to be as good as new. The above mentioned food safety tips will help you save costs since you will have plenty of it on hand. If you live in a location that is prone to natural disasters such as Texas, create a plan incorporating these tips and you can salvage a lot of items.