In anticipation of a severe snowstorm headed for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, the USDA has published a list of food safety recommendations in case of power outages. Key concerns include minimizing the risk of foodborne illness and the reduction of food waste. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service also has a video on food safety on YouTube, and a downloadable publication for reference.
Major steps to take if the power goes out include monitoring the temperature of both your freezer and refrigerator for safe temperatures (40 degrees or lower in the fridge, zero degrees or lower in the freezer), freezing non-immediate food items including milk, meat, and poultry; grouping foods together so they stay colder longer, and having coolers for more storage.
Although you may be so inclined, the USDA does not recommend putting food outside in the ice and snow, as it may attract wild animals or thaw later on. Additionally, you should freeze water in several containers before the storm to help keep your food cold.
If any perishable food (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs) has been left out for more than two hours above 40 degrees, throw it out. Never taste food to check if it’s safe and lastly: When in doubt, throw it out.
For the complete of precautions to take, read, download, and print out the Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety During Severe Storms & Hurricanes.
Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy.