FOOD SAFETY SOS! How to keep food safe during emergencies, natural disasters, power outages and floods.
FOOD SAFETY SOS! How to keep food safe during emergencies, natural disasters, power outages and floods. By Rommel Gerodias After the devastating typhoon Milenyo that ruined Manila and nearby provinces, a lot of restaurants and small food facilities were victimized by the ensuing floods and power outages. I received several inquiries about whether their food supply would still be safe after such incidents. In the event of emergencies, the United States Department of Agriculture published the following Frequently Asked Questions and some explanations to help both foodservice professionals and homemakers. Frequently Asked Questions: Q. Flood waters covered our food stored on shelves and in cabinets. What can I keep and what should I throw out? A. Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized. Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener. Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following: Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria. Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available. Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt. Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation. Then, sanitize them by immersion in one of the two following ways: Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or Place in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available) for 15 minutes. Air-dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing. If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date (if available), with a marker. Food in reconditioned cans or retort pouches should be used as soon as possible, thereafter. Any concentrated baby formula in reconditioned, all-metal containers must be diluted with clean, drinking water. Q. How should I clean my pots, pans, dishes, and utensils? A. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine sanitizer per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). This gives you around 100-200 ppm available chlorine to sanitize you pots, pans, dishes and utensils. Q. How should I clean my countertops? A. Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of chlorine sanitizer per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air-dry. Q. My home was flooded and I am worried about the safety of the drinking water. What should I do? A. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available. If you don't have bottled water, you should boil water to make sure it is safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers. If you can't boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
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