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USDA Issues Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Flooding

Many Louisiana residents have been impacted by severe flooding. In response, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations to guide those in Louisiana who have been affected.
The comprehensive food safety education lists strong recommendations that consumers may take to reduce their risk for food-borne illnesses during these severe flooding events.
Food safety:
  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood waters – this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs
  • Discard all food not in waterproof containers if there is a chance it has come into contact with flood waters. This includes foods packaged in cardboard, plastic wrapped food, and food with screw caps, pull tops, and crimped caps.
  • Inspect canned goods and discard cans that are crushed, swelling, leaking, punctured, rusted or crushed
You can take preventative measures before a potential power outage to maintain the integrity of your food. The USDA recommends keeping thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to keep track of temperatures. Other recommendations include placing meat and poultry separate from other foods to avoid cross contamination in the even thawing happens. Consumers may also purchase blocks of dry ice, a 50lb block should keep a fully stocked refrigerator or freezer cold for two days.
If consumers lose power the USDA recommends the following:
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible – it will keep food cold for about 4 hours – a full freezer will hold its temperature for 48 hours
  • Separate meat and poultry from other foods or put on a tray to prevent cross contamination from thawing juices
  • Use dry ice or block ice to keep refrigerator cold. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an average size fully stocked refrigerator cold for two days
In the event you are without power for longer than two days, has compiled a list of foods to be discarded in the event your refrigerator has been above 40° for more than two hours:
  • Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood, soy meat substitutes
  • Thawing meat or poultry
  • Salads: Meat, tuna, chicken, or egg salads
  • Lunchmeats including hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and dried beef
  • Canned meats labeled “keep refrigerated”
  • Soft, hard, and shredded cheeses
  • Milk products including, yogurt, sour cream, evaporated milk
  • Opened baby formula
  • Cut fresh fruits
  • Refrigerated biscuit, rolls or cookie doughs
  • Cooked tofu
  • Pastries – especially cream filled
  • Greens, pre-cut, washed, and packaged
  • Casseroles, soups, and stews
FSIS will provide relevant food safety information as the flooding progresses from their Twitter feed @USDAFoodSafety and Facebook page.
FSIS also has a video on YouTube entitled, Food Safety During Power Outages, with complete food safety instructions. They have also published A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Sever Storms and Hurricanes which contains details of what you can do before, during, and after a power outage.
For consumers who might have questions regarding food safety they can “Ask Karen” the FSIS virtual representative. Consumers can also email, chat with a live representative or call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at (888)674-6854 between the hours of 10:00am – 4:00pm.
Feature Picture Source: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters / Creative Commons.
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