WASHINGTON — The USDA reminds that when in the path of severe weather to take steps to keep food safe, and for farmers and ranchers to take proactive steps to protect their livestock. The weather system was being forecast to bring severe storms, including damaging winds, severe rain, potential flooding, hail and even tornadoes to parts of the Southern Plains and Gulf Coast the week of March 21.
Food safety guidance:
- Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. USDA encourages those in the path of the storm to take the following precautions:
- During a power outage, the refrigerator will keep food at a safe temperature (below 40 degrees F) for up to 4 hours. A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to prevent cold air from escaping.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer in the event you do need to check the refrigerator or freezer temperatures.
- Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
- Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
- Group foods together in the freezer — this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
- Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
For questions about food safety, call the Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish), email MPHotline@usda.gov or live chat at Ask USDA.
Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 877-FSIS-HELP (877-374-7435), by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 24/7 online at www.fsis.usda.gov.