It's Hurricane Season: Prepare to Keep Food Safe
As the national education advisor for food safety at FDA, I’m responsible for getting the word out about keeping food safe, particularly during disasters. And, of all the natural disasters that we face in the United States, the only one that has its own clearly defined season is the hurricane.
The 2014 Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean begins Sunday, June 1. The experts are predicting a busier-than-usual hurricane season for this year. That makes it even more important to be prepared, particularly when it comes to safe food and water.
The best strategy for you and your family? Have a plan in place and be sure everyone in the family knows it. Make sure that your plan includes these food and water safety precautions:
- Use appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. In case of a power outage, thermometers will help you determine if the food is safe. Freezer temperature should be 0 F or lower; the refrigerator should be 40° F or lower.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case the power goes out. You can also use the melting ice as drinking water.
- Purchase or make ice cubes and freeze gel packs in advance for use in coolers.
- Check out local sources where you can buy dry ice and block ice, just in case.
- Store some bottled water where it will be as safe as possible from flooding.
If the Power Goes Out
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
- A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep it closed.
- A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full)
- If the power is going to be out for an extended period of time, buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source.
For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that does not require adding water. For concentrated or powdered formula, prepare with bottled rather than tap water.
When the Power Is Restored
- Check refrigerator and freezer thermometers. If the freezer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
- If you did not use a thermometer in the freezer, check each package. If the food still contains ice crystals, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
- Discard any perishable food that has been kept above 40° F for two hours or more.
For more information, see What Consumers Need to Know About Food and Water Safety During Hurricanes, Power Outages, and Floods.