Well as you probably have heard, our lovely Texas is about to be broadsided by a pretty nasty hurricane named Harvey. Harvey seems like such a happy name to me for that terrible-looking blob I see on the radar headed our way. I am thinking and praying for all my friends and family in Corpus Christi right now, and my family here just north of San Antonio is preparing as well (also working on potty training since we are stuck around the house. We are just letting all sorts of flood gates open here….brilliant idea right?)

As a dietitian a major thing I think about is food safety in times like this. We are expected to have flooding and power outages all over the state. Here are a few tips I wanted to quickly share in case you might find it helpful this weekend!

  • Keep a few days worth of ready to eat foods that require no refrigeration or cooking (peanut butter sandwiches, canned tuna that you can eat immediately, fruits, crackers, etc)
  • Keep thermometers in your fridge and freezer and check periodically. Fridge should be below 40 degrees F and freezer 0 degrees F or below.
  • Make your own block ice ahead of time by filling gallon Ziplock bags of water and freezing. Don’t overfill though, water expands when frozen.
  • Drag out your coolers (make sure they are clean) and put them to use if the power is out more than 4 hours. Use dry ice or blocks of ice to keep things cold for a longer period of time.
  • If the power goes out, try to open your fridge/freezer as little as possible. A fridge can keep itself cold enough for 4 hours if unopened, and a freezer up to 48 hours.
  • Group food together in the freezer to keep them colder longer (igloo effect).
  • Throw foods like milk and fresh meats in the freezer so if the power does goes out they will keep longer.
  • This is a big one ….make sure meats are stored below or away from other foods. If they thaw they will drip and contaminate everything.
  • Make sure to throw away any perishable food that warms above 40 degrees for longer than 2 hours.
  • If the power is out and ice crystals begin to form, the food is still safe to refreeze. Once it rises above 40 degrees for 2 hours or longer however, throw out.
  • Don’t taste perishable food to see if it is safe. Instead, check for odor, changes in texture or color.
  • As much as I hate wasting food, when in doubt, throw it out. It is just not worth it, especially in times of a disaster.
  • Do NOT eat any food that is not in a water-proof container and has come in contact with flood waters. This includes any food or drink in card board boxes, plastic wrap, or screw caps. They are not water-proof.
  • Throw away any damaged cans – those with punctures, major dents, or swelling.

Stay safe out there everyone, and watch what you eat.

Source: USDA Office of Communications