Do you have emergency supplies ready for a storm? It’s Atlantic hurricane season in the United States until November 30. Hurricanes can disrupt our normal life and cause floods and power outages that may contaminate food. The following tips can help you protect yourself, your family, and your pets from foodborne illness during and after a storm.
Hurricane preparation food safety tips
Prepare for a hurricane now before a storm hits.
- Purchase and store food and water for your household in case the food supply is disrupted for an extended amount of time. Each person and pet should have at least one gallon of water each day. Purchase non-perishable foods that have a long shelf-life and remember to represent the needs of your whole household like pets, infants, and any special diets.
- To reduce the use of water for cleaning, stock up on plastic forks, spoons, and knives; paper plates, bowls, cups, and towels; and propane or charcoal for grills. Remember to have a manual can opener on hand.
Learn more by viewing the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Division of Food Safety hurricane preparedness tips videos, hurricane preparedness digital checklist flyer, and water needs for power outages flyer.
Refrigeration tips to reduce foodborne illness
Before you lose power, here are some tips from Ready.gov to help keep your refrigerated food from spoiling. The longer your perishable items stay cool, the lower the risk of food contamination.
- Perishable food should be kept at a temperature of 40 °F or below. Your refrigerator will keep at temperature for four hours without power. A fully stocked freezer will keep food at temperature (at 0 °F or below) for 48 hours. If the freezer is half-full, it will keep food at temperature for 24 hours without power.
- If a storm approaches, freeze ice packs, bottles of water, or other containers. Fill any coolers you have with ice. Purchase dry ice or ice blocks to place in your freezer and/or refrigerator. Ready.gov says 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for three to four days.
- Transfer items from your refrigerator that need to be kept cold to your freezer. Also, transfer some ice products to the refrigerator to keep the temperature. Move perishable foods to the front of the refrigerator for quick access.
Watch the FDACS’ Division of Food Safety hurricane preparedness refrigeration video to see how to apply these refrigeration tips.
Watch for food expiration
Help prevent foodborne illness when the power goes out by paying extra close attention to your food’s integrity and expiration.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers after four hours without power.
- Pay attention to the integrity of the packaging containing your food. If a container or can has a dent on the seam or lid, dispose of it. Also, if containers or cans seem blotted, dispose of them.
- After a power outage, never taste food to determine if it is safe to eat. You will need to evaluate each food item separately. If any food item is in question, remember, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
View FDACS’ Division of Food Safety expiration video to get more information regarding expired food.
For more tips on preventing foodborne illnesses in the wake of a hurricane, visit the Division of Food Safety’s consumer resources and outreach website at FDACS.gov.
Julie Wood is a Research and Training Specialist with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food Safety. She is a BAC Fighter Ambassador who designs and delivers engaging food safety presentations and provides digital outreach campaigns for consumer food safety education. Julie can be reached at Julie.Wood1@FDACS.gov.