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Food safety is important after a weather emergency

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Our area was hit by tornadoes and other severe weather last week. Many families and individuals had homes, farms and businesses damaged,  including weather damage, power outages and numerous other loses.

If you have had power outages and were without electricity or a cold source, foods stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees. If these foods are eaten, people can become very sick.

These guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture can help you minimize foodborne illnesses after and before any weather emergency.

After an emergency

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. (Food is safe for about four hours if refrigerator is unopened; full freezer for 48 hours if doors are kept closed).

Discard refrigerated perishable food or cook it and refreeze (meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs and leftovers) after four hours without power.

Food may be safely refrozen if it contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees.

Never taste a food to determine its safety.

Keep dry or block ice in your refrigerator and freezer to keep food as cold as possible if the power is off for a prolonged period.

Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days. If power is out for several days, use an appliance thermometer to be sure the freezer reads 40 degrees or below and you can refreeze the food. Or, to determine its safety, if the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.

Drink only bottled water if flooding occurred.

Discard any food not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it came into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (like seafood pouches) can be saved. For more information, visit www.fsis.usda.gov/FactSheets to keep food safe during an emergency.

Preparing for an emergency

Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to know their temperature in case there is a power outage.
Make sure the freezer is 0 degrees or below and the refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below.

Freeze containers of water, gel paks or ice cubes to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers for a power outage.

Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry not immediately needed. 

Have coolers on hand to put refrigerator food in with ice for four hours.
Group food together in the freezer to help it stay colder.

Thoroughly wash all cooking and serving equipment in hot soapy water that came in contact with flood water. Sanitize by boiling in clean water or by immersing for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tbsp. of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.

When in doubt, throw it out. View a public service announcement from the USDA Food Service and Inspection Service at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news.

Diabetes self management

Is diabetes taking control of your life? Becky Wilson, RN, with Three Rivers District Health Department and I are teaching a diabetes self management series Mondays, March 12, 19, 26 and April 12 from 6-8 p.m. at the Carroll County Extension office.

This program will help you better understand the disease, manage your ABC’s of diabetes, practice better nutrition, health and routine care and control the effects of the disease. There is no cost for the series. Call the Extension office at (502) 732-7030 to register to attend.  

Dates of interest

March 12, 19, 26 and April 2: Diabetes Management , 6-7:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

March 8 and 22: Beginning Knitting, 6-8 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

Grace Angotti is Carroll Co. Extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to gangotti@uky.edu.