Hurricane Irene is being watched closely, as it is expected to grow more powerful over the next couple of days and may possibly make landfall in the Carolinas on the weekend. Should Charlotte be affected by the storm, are you prepared to ensure food safety in the case of a power outage?
According to research published recently in the journal Food Protection Trends, very few people know how to keep food safe during and after an extended power outage (24 hours or more). If you were in the Charlotte area back in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo swept across our area, you will remember that most residents lost power for at least two days – some longer than a week.
The Weather Channel urges you to be prepared in advance, before the hurricane hits. Don’t wait until the last minute to run to the store after the shelves have been ransacked by others!
Have at least a 3-day supply of water on hand consisting of one gallon per person per day. A 7-day supply is actually preferred if you have storage space. Buy non-perishable foods that do not need electricity for cooking. Good choices are cereal, energy bars, canned fruit and vegetables (remember to have a manual can opener!), and canned meat or fish. Don’t forget baby – have enough formula and baby food on hand as well.
If the storm is imminent, set your refrigerator on maximum cold and keep the doors closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door stays closed. However, should you lose power, keep the following food safety principles in mind:
· For refrigerated foods, discard any perishable item that has gone two hours without being cooled to the proper temperature (maximum 40 degrees F). This includes meat, poultry, milk, eggs and deli items.
· For frozen foods, if they have even partially thawed, to be safe, they should be thrown away. A full freezer will keep temperature for about 48 hours (about 24 if only half-full).
· Never taste a food to determine its safety. An off-taste may indicate spoilage, but bacteria multiply to a dangerous level even before taste is affected.
· For information on specific foods and how long they can keep unrefrigerated, please visit FoodSafety.gov.
Please also remember to be well prepared if you or one of your family members has a chronic medical condition. For example, fill all prescriptions no later than when a watch is issued. If you have diabetes, particularly Type 1 (insulin dependent), have glucose gel or other rapidly digested carbohydrate readily available to prevent hypoglycemia.
Visit The Weather Channel website for more tips on preparing yourself and your family for safety if Hurricane Irene does come to our area.