Hurricane Season Food Safety

With hurricane season in full swing and Tropical Storm Debby drenching Florida — food safety officials want coastal residents to know what to do to keep food edible during a power outage.

 

After Hurricane Ike, some Houston area residents were out of power for weeks.

There were grilling parties and fridge clean-outs across the region as people tried to use food before it spoiled.

Maribel Alonso is a specialist with the USDA's meat and poultry hotline. She says a lot of food stays safe longer than people may realize.

"If it's a full freezer, it will hold a safe temperature for 48 hours. And if it's a half full freezer, it will be 24 hours. Now when I say safe temperature, I mean 40 degrees or below. So your freezer temperature can go up to 40 degrees and everything will still be safe to refreeze."

Alonso says you can also check frozen foods for ice crystals in the packaging to determine if the food is safe.

As far as food in the fridge goes, it will only stay good for about four hours without power. But you can freeze milk, butter, cheese and many prepared foods.

 In fact, Alonso says the more stuff you pack into the freezer, the longer it will stay insulated and cold.

"You can also freeze gel packs or have a bag of ice or even frozen plastic jugs of water can be used to fill those spaces. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for a little longer than a half full freezer."

Any food with an unnatural smell, color or texture should be discarded, or as Alonso puts it, when in doubt, throw it out.
The USDA has a meat and poultry hotline for food safety questions at 888-MPHotline.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...