USDA Food Safety Tips -
Consumer hotline: 1-888-674-6854

This advice has been sent out by the USDA before, but it’s always good to have these recommendations on hand.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) food safety  recommendations for those who may be affected by Hurricane Matthew:

Significant flooding is possible from Georgia through Massachusetts, including South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Hurricane power outages and flooding can compromise the safety of stored food. Residents in the path of this storm should pay close attention to the forecast.

FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other severe weather events.

Before losing power:

Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.

Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers.

Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.

Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.

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 a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

If the power goes out:

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 (24 hours if half-full).

Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.

Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

After a weather emergency:

When in doubt, throw it out.

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.

Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.

Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.

After a flood:

Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water – this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs.

Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or those with screw‐caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.

Flood waters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.

Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel‐type can opener.

 If your refrigerator fails:

These refrigerated perishable foods should be discarded if your refrigerator measures more than 40˚F  for more than two hours as a result of a power outage:

Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes Thawing meat or poultry Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad Gravy, stuffing, broth Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Pizza – with any topping Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated” Canned meats and fish, opened Casseroles, soups, stews Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco Shredded Cheeses Low-fat Cheeses Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk Baby formula, opened Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products Custards and puddings, quiche Fresh fruits, cut Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish (discard if above 50°F , or 10°C, for over 8 hours) Fish sauces, oyster sauce Opened creamy-based dressings Spaghetti sauce, opened jar Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette Fresh pasta Cheesecake Pastries, cream filled Pies – custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche Vegetables: Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged Vegetables, cooked; tofu Vegetable juice, opened Baked potatoes Commercial garlic in oil Potato salad Casseroles, soups, stews