Perry Solice, REHS – Health Department
The best strategy for you and your family is to always have a plan in place that everyone knows and that includes food and water safety precautions. Be sure to use appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer to help determine if food is safe during power outages. Thermometers can be purchased at most of our local hardware or discount stores. Refrigerator thermometer should be 41 degrees or lower and the freezer should be zero degrees or lower. Freeze containers of water in advance for ice to help keep food cold in freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case of power outage. You can also use the melted ice for drinking water. Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold with any ice you make or buy. Keep the doors closed on refrigerators and freezers. A refrigerator will keep your food cold for about four hours if you keep the door closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours and 24 hours if half full.
Permitted food establishments can take certain precautions to minimize product loss and food safety as a result of power loss or flooding. Food that has been contaminated or adulterated is considered unsafe to eat and must be discarded if the temperature was above 41 degrees for longer than four hours. These establishments are inspected by the Environmental Health Section for food safety issues after any disaster.
Temperature is the key to controlling most biological contaminants. Once the power is restored, check the thermometers to determine if the food items are still safe. Remember 41 degrees or below for the refrigerator and zero degrees or below for the freezer. Discard any perishable foods such as meats, milk, eggs or leftovers that have been kept in the refrigerator or freezer above 41 degrees for more than four hours. Never taste food to determine its safety. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
To minimize food loss, place as many perishables in the freezer prior to a disaster; a packed freezer will keep them under 41 degrees longer than a refrigerator.
If a well has been flooded or damaged, have it tested because flood waters contain many contaminants that can affect water safety. Purchase bottled water prior to any disaster. If a permitted establishment has no water, they cannot operated and the permit will be suspended until potable water is restored.
Portable generators will prevent loss and assist with recovery efforts, but they are not intended to replace approved power source for food establishment operation. Always use in accordance with manufacturer’s safety guidelines.
For more information about food safety contact Sampson Count Environmental Health Office at 910-92-4675, ext. 4907 or 4906.