If you’re bracing yourself for a major storm, you’ve likely already made your trip to the grocery store to stock up in case of emergency. But how do you ensure the safety of food in your refrigerator and freezer during a power outage or flood? Below are some tips from the USDA to keep your food safe and your family healthy during a weather emergency.
- Fill Ziplock bags, empty soda bottles, and other plastic containers with water and freeze. Use these to keep items in the freezer, refrigerator, and coolers cold.
- Freeze items in your refrigerator that you do not need immediately such as meat, poultry, milk, and leftovers such as chili and soup. If you loose power, this will buy you some more time by keeping them at a food-safe temperature longer.
- Group items together in the freezer and refrigerator to help keep everything cooler longer. Think “safety in numbers”!
- Have coolers at the ready to be filled with ice packs, frozen items, and refrigerated perishables.
If you’re preparing for a flood, relocate foods on the bottom shelves of your pantry to higher shelves or cabinets.
If the power goes out:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
- The refrigerator will keep food safe for about 4 hours, if it is kept closed. A unopened freezer that is packed full will hold its temperature for 48 hours. If it is only half full, it will keep food safe for 24 hours.
- If the food has visible ice crystals, it is safe to be refrozen or cooked to eat. The same holds true for food that has been kept in a sealed freezer for several days without power. If there are still ice crystals, it is safe.
- The safest way to determine a food’s safety is to use a thermometer. If a food’s temperature registers at 40°F or below, it is safe.
- After 4 hours without power, discard all refrigerated perishables such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, soft cheeses, etc. NEVER taste an item to see if it’s still good. As the USDA says, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
- Here’s a VERY HANDY chart of foods that are perishable and non-perishable
If your kitchen and pantry is flooded:
- Discard food that is not in a waterproof container and may have come into contact with flood water – this includes food or supplies in cardboard boxes, juice/ milk/baby formula boxes, as well as home canned goods. Anything with a screw-cap, snap lid, pull top, and crimped cap is also not waterproof.
- Canned goods with punctures, swelling, deep dents, or extensive rusting should also be discarded.
- More tips and complete cleaning instructions to sanitize waterproof food containers and kitchen cookware and utensils.
Good luck and stay safe!