Even in our homes, food can become contaminated or unsafe to eat if food is mishandled or improperly prepared. Below are some helpful tips for protecting your family against food borne illness in the home?
- Emergency Food Safety Tips
- Tips for Safe Food Handling When Guests are Delayed
- Outdoor Food Safety Tips
Emergency Food Safety Tips
Knowing how to keep food safe during an emergency, as well as how to determine if food is still safe to consume, will help reduce both the risk for foodborne illness as well as loss of food.
Determining If Food in the Refrigerator or Freezer Is Still Safe
When the power is out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Perishable foods such as meats, milk, and eggs need to be refrigerated below 5° C. Frozen foods need to be kept below -18° C. The average refrigerator can usually keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if left unopened. A freezer may keep food safe for 24 - 48 hours depending upon its fullness. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator or freezer to verify the temperature has not exceeded these temperatures. Discard any foods that have been above 40° F for 2 hours (or 1 hour on 90+ degree days).
Food can usually be refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or if the internal temperature is 4° C or below. Discard any items in the freezer or refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
Foods to Keep on Hand for Emergencies
Keep foods on hand that don't require refrigeration and that can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill or portable stove. Also keep a three-day supply of bottled water as well as ready-to-use baby formula or extra pet food as needed.
Storing Food Safely in an Emergency
If you live in an area that could be affected by a flood, store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water. Use coolers to help keep food cold if the power goes out more than four hours. Stack items close together to help food stay cold longer.
Cleaning Up After a Flood
Discard all food that came in contact with flood waters. Discard wooden cutting boards as there is no way to safely clean and sanitize them. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.
Tips for Safe Food Handling When Guests Are Delayed
If your guests are delayed, do you know what to do with all of the food that you prepared?
If guests are delayed less than an hour ...
If hot foods are in the oven and guests are expected to arrive within the hour, the food can usually be held safely in the oven. Put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or in the center of other dishes and adjust the oven temperature so that the food stays at an internal temperature of 60° C or above. To prevent food from drying out, cover the dishes or wrap with aluminum foil. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving.
If guests are delayed for more than an hour ...
Hot foods may dry out if kept in a warm oven for more than an hour. If guests are delayed for more than an hour, separate the food in shallow containers and store in the refrigerator. When the guests arrive, reheat the food to an internal temperature of 74° C. Cold foods should be kept refrigerated until just before serving.
If guests cancel ...
If raw meat or poultry was thawed but didn't start the cooking process, the meat can be safely refrozen provided it was thawed in the refrigerator. If the meat or poultry was previously frozen, the quality may decrease if frozen a second time, but it would be safe as bacteria do not grow in the freezer. If you plan to reschedule the party, poultry and ground meats can be refrigerated for two days; red meats like roasts and steaks up to five days.
If the party is rescheduled ...
If the party is rescheduled within three to four days, cooked foods can be stored safely in the refrigerator. For longer storage, freeze any cooked meat or casserole in shallow, airtight containers or wrap tightly with foil or freezer wrap. Cooked foods can usually be stored in the freezer for 3 to 4 months. Most side dishes can also be frozen, although those containing cream sauces may become lumpy when frozen and reheated.
Always reheat cooked foods to at least 74° C.
Outdoor Food Safety Tips
Whether on vacation or enjoying an outdoor activity such as backpacking or camping, if the food your bring with you is handled improperly, foodborne illness may ruin your trip. Here are some tips for making your next trip safer.
Keep Hot Foods Hot and Cold Foods Cold
Between 4° F and 60° C is the range in which bacteria can multiply most rapidly -- they can reach dangerous levels in as little as two hours. Cook raw meat and poultry products thoroughly to destroy bacteria. If you are traveling with cold foods, bring a cooler with a cold source.
Since it is difficult to keep foods hot when traveling, cook foods before leaving home, cool them to less than 4° C, and transport them cold. Cooked foods can then be reheated to 74° C.
Keep It Clean
Because bacteria can easily spread from one food to the next via dripping juices, hands, or utensils, think ahead to avoid cross contamination.
When transporting raw meat, double wrap packages or place them in plastic bags to prevent juices from dripping on to other foods. Also, don't use the same platter and utensils for both raw and cooked meats.
Food Safety While Camping
Planning meals for a backpacking or camping trip requires more thought and preparation. Pack dehydrated, canned or chilled foods. Cook food in advance and refrigerate or freeze overnight. Pack with frozen gel-packs or use boxed drinks as a cold source. If packing frozen meats for cooking, bring a meat thermometer to test for doneness.
When possible, bring bottled water for drinking. If you must drink water from a stream or other untreated source, it must be purified no matter how clean it appears. Boiling is a simple method to destroy most harmful organisms.
A Few Rules to Remember ...
Pack safely. Use a cooler or pack foods in a frozen state with a cold source.
Carry disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dish washing.
Discard all perishable foods if there is no longer ice in the cooler or the gel-packs are no longer frozen.