The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issues food safety recommendations to help prevent illness from severe weather-related events. Power outages from weather emergencies can compromise the safety of stored foods, which could ultimately result in food spoiling. The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of food-borne illness annually – the equivalent of sickening 1 in 6 Americans each year.
In addition, each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. To help provide additional peace of mind during these times, make sure that you and your loved ones have adequate health insurance coverage as well as a life insurance policy.
This number is estimated to increase during serve weather conditions as proper preparation may not be made. Fortunately, the consumer can take steps to reduce food waste and the risk of food-borne illness.
The FSIS website provides consumers with resources to keep food safe and protect themselves.
If the power goes out, it is recommended to follow the following steps:
- Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
- Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours
- Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
Once the weather emergency has passed, the USDA recommends to follow the following step to ensure food safety:
- Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
- Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
- Never taste a food to decide if it is safe.
- When in doubt, throw it out.