Hurricane Survival Guide: Food safety tips

USDA's advise: 'When in doubt, throw it out'

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be refrigerated at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and frozen food should be kept at or below zero degrees.  

When the power goes out, the refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if unopened, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Services. A full freezer will maintain the temperature for about 48 hours and about 24 hours if half full --- if the door is not opened.

If you think power will be out for an extended period of time, buy dry or block ice to keep the fridge or freezer cold. Freeze containers of water and gel packs to help keep food cold if the power goes out. Freeze items you don't need immediately. 

USDA experts advise that as soon as the power returns residents need to check the temperature inside of the refrigerator and freezer. Put thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. If they are still at safe temperatures, your food should be fine. Never taste food to determine its safety. 

Store nonperishable foods on higher shelves to avoid flood water. Do not eat any food that may have touched flood water and sanitize pots and pans, dishes and utensils with 1 table spoon of bleach for every gallon of water. Discard food that is not in waterproof containers or in damaged cans.

The FoodKeeper app has storage times listed, it is free and it's available for Android and Apple devices. 

You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide:

Food Categories

Specific Foods

Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated

Thawed and held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD

Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats

Refreeze

 

Discard

Poultry and ground poultry

Refreeze

 

Discard

Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)

Refreeze

 

Discard

Casseroles, stews, soups

Refreeze

 

Discard

Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products

Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss.

Discard

DAIRY

Milk

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Discard

Eggs (out of shell) and egg products

Refreeze

Discard

Ice cream, frozen yogurt

Discard

Discard

Cheese (soft and semi-soft)

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Discard

Hard cheeses

Refreeze

Refreeze

Shredded cheeses

Refreeze

Discard

Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses

Refreeze

Discard

Cheesecake

Refreeze

Discard

FRUITS

Juices

Refreeze

Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.

Home or commercially packaged

Refreeze. Will change texture and flavor.

Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.

VEGETABLES

Juices

Refreeze

Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.

Home or commercially packaged or blanched

Refreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss.

Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.

BREADS, PASTRIES

Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)

Refreeze

Refreeze

Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling

Refreeze

Discard

Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough

Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur.

Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.

OTHER

Casseroles – pasta, rice based

Refreeze

Discard

Flour, cornmeal, nuts

Refreeze

Refreeze

Breakfast items –waffles, pancakes, bagels

Refreeze

Refreeze

Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods)

Refreeze

Discard

 

Hurricane Survival Guide

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