Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Keeping Food Safe After the Storm

North Carolina has not been traditionally known as another tornado alley. However, some would wonder as we witness our recent turbulent weather. With any severe weather power outages are sure to follow. As food prices escalate every day, we all need to know how to keep our food safe in the event of loss of power. If you keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed, your food will be safe for a while. If food is kept at 41 degrees or cooler, it should last for several days. If food in the freezer does begin to thaw, it can be refrozen if ice crystals are still present. According to the Cooperative Extension specialist at Clemson University, “Leave the freezer door closed. A full freezer should keep food safe about two days, a half-full freezer, about a day. If freezer is not full, group packages together quickly. Group meat and poultry to one side or on separate trays so their juices will not contaminate each other or other foods if the meat and poultry thaw. Then avoid opening the freezer door to prevent the cold air from escaping.” The food specialist with the NC Cooperative Extension Service provides helpful info sheets that can be accessed using the following link: WWW.FOODSAFETYINFOSHEETS.COM
If food has been thawed and not refrigerated for two hours or more, do not taste the food to determine if it is safe. Some food may look and smell fine but still contain dangerous pathogens. The extension service also provides other helpful tips regarding food. For example, did you know that you could hasten the ripening of fruit such as tomatoes, peaches, and pears if you place them in a closed brown paper bag with an apple or banana? Good to know since much of our produce comes from distant farms and is often under ripe at the time of purchase. As the fresh produce season arrives, it is also important to remember that safety precautions are needed with cloth shopping bags. They need to be washed weekly since harmful bacteria can cling to the fibers of these bags. We are definitely helping our environment by using these bags instead of plastic bags. However, we need to pay attention and probably just get in the habit of tossing the fabric bags in the washing machine after each shopping trip. I even have one fabric bag that is insulated for transporting