When severe weather heads your way, try these tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you preserve your food when you’re facing a potential storm, flood, or power loss:
- Put an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer so you know the refrigerator temperature is no higher than 40° F and the freezer stays 0° F or lower.
- Put food on high shelves to keep it above contaminated water in case of flooding.
- Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat, and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
- Purchase or make ice and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
If the power goes out:
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
- A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed.
- A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
- If the power is 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.
- If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below when checked with a food thermometer, it may be safely refrozen.
- Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items) that have been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40° F for two hours or more.
- Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers.
- Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
- Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.
- Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety.
- Never taste food to determine its safety!
- When in Doubt, throw it out!
For more tips, download A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes.