Food and water safety tips after a storm

Food and water safety tips after a storm

A major storm can disrupt your food and water supply. You can temporarily lose access to clean drinking water, and a power outage can render your refrigerator and freezer useless.

Losing power for a few hours probably won't cause any major problems because perishable food can survive for up to 4 hours if the refrigerator door is closed, but when you lose power for several hours or days at a time, you need to take action.

Consider the following food and water safety tips if a major storm recently hit your area:

  • Check news reports, with the health department or with your utility company to learn if your local water source is safe to drink. If an advisory has been issued, you’ll need to boil your water before consuming or drink bottled water. To remove bacteria and parasites, bring water to a full boil for at least 1 minute then allow it to cool.
     
  • If you lose power, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Your refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler to safely store food. Most fridges can maintain that temperature for up to 4 hours if the doors remain closed. Throw out perishable foods like milk and meats if their temperatures rise above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
     
  • Don’t eat food that has come in contact with flood water. Undamaged canned goods can be salvaged if they re cleaned. Remove the label; wash the can with a mixture of soap, water and bleach. Discard any canned foods that appear bloated.
     
  • Frozen foods may last longer than 4 hours. If the food is still frozen, or if the temperature remains below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be refrozen. If you have access to ice, you can add it to the freezer to prolong the time.

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How long will the food in my fridge last if the power goes out?

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Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of refrigerated and frozen food after a power outage. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)
Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of refrigerated and frozen food after a power outage. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Experts say keeping the freezer and refrigerator doors shut during a power outage is a crucial part of making the food inside last longer. But for how long?

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