While Hurricane Irma certainly presents the possibility of power outages and flooding, food can also be compromised.
Luckily, U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued several safety recommendations for those who will be impacted by the massive storm that have already plowed through parts of the Caribbean and will hit parts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas this weekend.
Take a look at the tips below to find out how to keep your grub edible during the storm.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Your refrigerator will remain cold for about four hours if the door is closed, and your freezer will hold its temperature for up to 48 hours.
Buy dry or block ice in case the power is out for longer than expected. About 50 pounds of dry ice will keep a fully stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for up to two days.
And to prevent cross contamination, place your meats and poultry on one side of the freezer and your thawing juices on the other.
You should not eat any food that comes in contact with floodwaters. This includes raw fruits and veggies, milk and eggs. Get rid of any food that is not stored in a waterproof container even if you think it has not come in contact with floodwaters. That goes for items packaged with plastic wrap, cardboard, screw‐caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps.
Check for damaged cans too. Discard any can that has swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting or crushing that prevents normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel‐type can opener.
When the storm is over, how do I know what to toss?
You will need to check the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Throw away any perishable foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.
Inspect everything separately, and thrash anything with an unusual smell, color, texture or anything that is warm to the touch.
As for things in your freezer, you can refreeze them if the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
Never taste anything to determine if it is safe. “When it doubt, throw it out.”
You may have seen this post on your Facebook feed. It suggests to putting a quarter on a cup of frozen water in the freezer before you leave. When you return, you can see if the quarter stayed put or if it sank. The sinking will tell you that the water melted. If the water in the cup melted then refroze, the same can be said for the food in the freezer.
But can you believe all of the tips and hacks you see on Facebook and other social media?
In this case, experts said yes, but with a slight change.
Mercer said that food will stay frozen in a freezer for about 24 hours, as long as you don’t open the freezer door to check on what is inside.
The coin/cup trick helps when you’re away and are not sure if there’s been an extended power outage. Mercer said if the contents of the freezer thawed and then refroze, you’d have no way of knowing without the hack. If food thaws then refreezes, microorganisms that were there before the first freeze can multiply, posing a threat of food poisoning.