Food Safety Tips After Hurricane Dorian and other Natural DisasterAs Hurricane Dorian unleashed its wrath, we were once again reminded how devastating natural disasters can be.  Besides the devastating winds and life-threatening conditions, floods and loss of power brought on by hurricanes can cut off water supplies and quickly compromise the safety of food.

FDA, USDA and CDC recommend that individuals and food service operators in affected areas take certain steps to reduce the risk of contamination and foodborne illness after Hurricane Dorian and other severe weather events.

Power Outage

Changes in food temperature during a power outage can cause food to potentially grow harmful bacteria that cannot be destroyed by cooking.  Once power is restored, it is important to check all food before consuming.

  • Check the safety of food in your freezer
    • Check the freezer thermometer, if the thermometer reads 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
    • If there was no thermometer in the freezer, be sure to check each item individually with a calibrated thermometer.
    • If you see ice crystals on partially thawed food, or the food item is 40°F or below you can safely refreeze or cook it.
  • Check the safety of food in your refrigerator
    • If power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept closed, refrigerated food should be safe to eat.
    • All perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, egg products, milk etc. ) that has been above 40°F for 2 hours or more should be thrown out.

***NEVER taste food….if it smells bad, looks or feels weird …Throw It Out.

Flooding

Flood water can potentially be contaminated with sewage and debris.

  • To prevent illness, ALL of the following items that have come into contact with floodwater should be thrown out:
    • any refrigerator units that were submerged in floodwater
    • wooden cutting boards
    • wooden dishes and utensils
    • plastic utensils
    • all food
    • grains
    • food packaged in plastic, paper, or cardboard that has water damage
    • any food or beverage containers with screw-caps, flip tops, crimped caps (soda bottles), twist caps, and home-canned foods
    • all ice from ice machines
    • any canned goods that are dented, damaged or have rust
    • canned goods that have come in contact with floodwater, but are not dented, or damaged could be salvaged by removing labels, washing, rinsing, disinfecting, air drying and relabeling with a permanent marker
  • Wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils with soap and hot water (if hot water is available), rinse and sanitize.
  • Wash countertops with soap and hot water, (if hot water is available) rinse and sanitize.
  • Replace all ice machine and beverage dispenser filters. Flush all water lines, including steam water lines and ice machine water lines, for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Clean and sanitize all sinks before resuming use.

Water Supply

Flooding caused by a hurricane can contaminate public water supply, making it unsafe to drink water from the affected area. If water supply has been interrupted or becomes contaminated:

  • Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters for drinking and cooking
  • If bottled water is unavailable, water can be boiled
    • Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms.
    • If water is cloudy, it can be filtered through a clean cloth before boiling
    • Boil water for 1 minute, let it cool and store it in clean containers with covers.
  • Use boiled water for handwashing
  • Throw out all ice in the ice machines, once water has been restored, clean and sanitize the inside, run ice through 4-5 cycles; discarding ice with each cycle.
  • Run your dishwasher without anything in it 3-4 complete cycles to flush the water lines.
  • Before washing any dishes or utensils, dishwashers must be thoroughly cleaned on the inside.

***Until potable water is available for hand washing, cooking, cleaning and sanitizing, foodservice facilities should not be reopened

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