Wind, rain and floodwater in the aftermath of a hurricane can put certain foods at risk. Mississippi's State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs reviews important precautions to take as you return home after the storm.
Florida Department of Health in Broward County (DOH-Broward) says to practice safe food handling and prevent food-borne illness by following these simple steps:
- Always keep a thermometer in your refrigerator. The temperature should read 41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or below.
- A full cooler will maintain its cold temperatures longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature. If available, 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a ten-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Use care when handling dry ice and wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.
- Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still "refrigerator cold."
- Eggs and other foods need to be stored in 41F or slightly below. Do not eat foods that may have spoiled.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected and cooled. Hands should be washed before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, after handling uncooked food, after playing with a pet, after handling garbage, after tending to someone who is sick or injured, after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, after participating in flood cleanup activities, and after handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
- Fight “cross-contamination,” which is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods. Never place any type of food on a plate, cutting board or utensil that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20-30 minutes or until the coals are lightly coated with ash. GRILLS SHOULD NEVER BE PLACED INDOORS.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
- Hamburgers and ground poultry should be cooked to 160 F.
- Poultry parts: 170 F.
- Roasts, steaks and other large cuts of beef: 145 F. (rare) and 160 F (medium).
- Fish should be cooked until the meat is opaque and flakes easily.
- Use sanitized food and water bowls for your pets and be sure that they do not drink from flood-contaminated surfaces.
- Never taste food to determine its safety!