Tornado, hurricane or ordinary brownouts and blackouts can play havoc with food safety. If you've escaped recent damage, clip this and add it to your Be-Prepared file.
After prolonged loss of power or natural disaster, beware of the possible presence of glass or other foreign objects in food and for possible spoilage. Some foods are likely to be more dangerous than others.
These foods will survive at temperatures moderately above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for a few days but be sure to discard any food that turns moldy or has an unusual odor or look:
Butter or margarine.
Fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and coconut, fruit juices and fruit pies.
Opened jars of salad dressing, peanut butter, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives.
Hard and processed cheeses.
Fresh herbs and spices.
Flour and nuts.
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins.
Use extra care with foods such as eggs, milk, cream or meat that contain animal protein. Discard any of the following kept two hours at above 40 degrees:
Raw or cooked meat, poultry and seafood.
Milk, cream, yogurt, soft cheeses.
Cooked pasta, pasta salads.
Custard, chiffon or cheese pies.
Fresh eggs or egg substitutes.
Meat-topped pizza and lunch meats
Casseroles, stews or soups.
Mayonnaise and tartar sauce.
Refrigerator and cookie doughs.
Frozen foods may not be a total loss either. Remember these tips:
Keep the freezer door closed. If the freezer is fully stocked, the contents will remain frozen for at least two days; if half full, at least one full day, but keep the door closed as much as possible.
Try dry ice. If the power failure lasts beyond a day or two, buy dry ice, 25 pounds for each 10 cubic feet of freezer. Do not handle the dry ice with bare hands (it will burn you). Use gloves to place the chunks of ice, the larger the better, on top of the food. In a fully loaded freezer, the dry ice will be effective for 3-4 days; in a half-loaded freezer, 2-3 days.
If frozen foods have been kept at 40 degrees or below for two days they will be okay. If the temperature reading inside the freezer is 50 degrees or higher, discard the food.
For direct information on food safety call the USDA's toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or a home economist at your cooperative extension service:
For brochures on the safety of frozen and refrigerated foods or water purification, send name, address and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the Pinellas County Cooperative Extension Service, 12175 125th Street N, Largo 34644.