SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -
The USDA is issuing recommendations to help minimize the potential for food borne illnesses in anticipation of a major winter snow storm that could dump multiple inches of snow from southern New England to coastal Maine and leave communities without power for extended periods.
"Major winter storms that bring heavy snow, ice and strong winds can impact food safety," said USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Al Almanza. "Consumers who are in the path of the winter storm headed for the Northeastern U.S. should know there is information available so they can ensure the safety of the food and water they may consume, even in the event of power outages."
Here are some steps to prepare for a possible weather emergency:
- Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
- Make sure the freezer is at 0 degrees or below and the refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately - this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Group food together in the freezer - this helps the food stay cold longer.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
Steps to follow after the weather emergency:
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
- The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full, and the door remains closed.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below when checked with a food thermometer.
- Never taste a food to determine its safety.
- Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.
- If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 degrees or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
For additional information on Emergency Preparedness, you can visit, www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Emergency_Preparedness_Fact_Sheets/index.asp
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