The United States Department of Agriculture issued a consumer alert on Feb. 8 to help people in the path of severe winter storms prevent food-borne illness in the event of an extended power outage. These tips are designed to inform people about preparing for food safety before a weather emergency strikes. While this USDA alert is in response to the storm currently dumping snow in the Northeast, these suggestions are helpful for anyone anticipating the possibility of an extended power outage.
1. Use an appliance thermometer. Having one for each refrigerator and freezer is recommended. During an extended power outage, you will need to be able to assess whether your food has remained at safe temperatures for consumption.
2. Set refrigerators and freezers to the proper temperatures- Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees or below. Freezers need to be at 0 degrees or below.
3. Keep containers of frozen water to help keep the inside of your appliances cool once the power has gone out.
4. Freeze foods you won’t need immediately. This includes meats, milk and leftovers.
5. Know where to purchase dry ice and block ice.
6. Have coolers on hand that are ready to use. Have plenty of ice cubes and freezer packs ready to use.
7. Pack frozen foods together in the freezer to help them stay cool longer.
8. Store foods on shelves to prevent contamination in the event of flooding.