USDA Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Tropical Storms Iselle and Julio
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for the state of Hawaii due to the forecast for severe weather conditions related to Tropical Storms Iselle and Julio.
The National Weather Service announced that Tropical Storms Iselle and Julio are developing off the coast of the Hawaiian Islands. Iselle is expected to continue towards the west-northwest islands, reaching the Hawaiian Islands on Thursday into Friday. Julio is forecasted to hit the Hawaiian Islands as a tropical storm or low level hurricane this weekend. Both storms are expected to bring heavy rain, flash flooding, and strong wind gusts. This type of weather forecast presents the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food.
FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of food borne illness during severe weather events.
Steps to follow if the power goes out:
- 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, block ice or even bagged 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.
- 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 bags of ice, 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.
Steps to follow after a weather emergency:
- 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.
- When in doubt, throw it out.