Here's How to Keep Your Food Safe During a Hurricane

There’s a lot you need to do when a hurricane is coming your way, from braving the long lines at the store so you can stock up on water and essentials to boarding up your windows and making sure your flamingo pool floaty is safely indoors. But one of the most important things you can do is ensure that, even if the power goes out, you’ll have a food supply that’s safe to eat. Thankfully, the USDA just released a guide to help you keep your food safe during a hurricane.

How to Prepare

To prepare for the possibility of power loss, there are a few things to do.

  • Make sure your refrigerator and freezer are set to 40F or below and 0F or below, respectively.
  • Group the food in your freezer together – it helps keep things colder. A full freezer also stays colder than a half-empty one.
  • Stock up on coolers, and freeze quart-sized zip lock bags of water ahead of time – you can use them to keep food cool later.
  • Find out where you can buy big blocks of ice and dry ice.
  • Freeze leftovers and perishable foods from your fridge that you wouldn’t eat within the first couple hours of a power outage.

What to do if the power goes out

When the power does go out, here’s how to proceed.

  • Keep the fridge and freezer doors closes – a full freezer can stay at a food safe temperature for almost 48 hours, while a fridge only stays cold for about 4 hours.
  • Keep animal products on one side of the freezer on a tray, so that if they begin to thaw the raw meat juices won’t contaminate other foods.
  • Use block and dry ice to keep things cool.

What to do when the storm is over

It can be tempting to try to recoup your losses after a big storm, but it’s important to be careful about what food you keep.

  • Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer, throwing out anything that’s been stored above 40F for more than two hours.
  • Throw away any food that smells or looks weird or feels warm, and only re-freeze foods if they still have ice crystals in them.
  • If you aren’t sure if your food is safe to eat, throw it out – you don’t want to end up with salmonella or listeriosis because you decided to take chances on a thawed package of store-brand pizza rolls.

If your home was affected by a flood, you should discard anything that came in touch with the flood water, which is usually very hazardous to your health. You should also inspect canned food and food in watertight containers to make sure they haven’t been damaged.

With these tips, you can minimize food loss and also make sure that you and your family are eating food that’s safe in the wake of the store. Don’t forget to stock up on non-perishable foods before the storm, too – the best laid plans with regard to the freezer and fridge can go to waste in an unpredictable weather event.

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