Prepare Kansas

Category: Food Safety

Please tell us what challenges you completed!

We’ve turned the calendar from September to October and that means our annual #PrepareKS challenge has concluded. For a re-cap of the weekly challenges, visit this page.

Did you participate in our weekly challenges? Please complete this short survey and tell us what challenges you completed! #KSRE http://bit.ly/2ddeZUJ

2016 #PrepareKS challenge concludes but every day is good day to prepare

Starting Sept. 1, Prepare Kansas 2016 provided tips on keeping food safe in emergency situations. This year’s program was conducted through the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page and here on the blog. Also, each week Jamie Vineyard Rathbun was live on Facebook talking about the weekly challenges.

Here’s a re-cap of the weekly themes and challenges.

ksre-poweroutageWeek 1: What can you do ahead of a power outage? This week we focused on activities that all of us can do before the power goes out. We challenged folks to put a thermometer in each of their refrigerators and freezers. We asked folks to post of picture on the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page

prepareks-powerout-mag-3x5_finalWeek 2: What you can you do when the power goes out? The week we focused on making sure folks know that when the power goes out it is important to keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. We also talked about how to keep food safe. We challenged folks to find out where they can obtain block or dry ice in their communities. We asked folks to share what they learned via social media.

when-in-doubt-throw-it-out

Week 3: What can you do after a power outage? This week we focused on how to decide if food is safe to keep or not after an extended power outage. Never taste food to determine if it is safe or not! We challenged folks go through their refrigerators and freezers and throw items out that have been there longer than the recommended storage time. After doing that,we challenged folks to clean the inside of their refrigerators. We asked folks to share one thing they learn about keeping food safe when the power goes out.

wash-your-handsWeek 4: What can you do after a flood? This week we focused on how to handle food that has come into contact with flood water. We also talked about the importance of handwashing after coming into contact with flood water. We challenged folks to make sure they were not storing any food, cooking utensils, or pans directly on the floor. We asked folks to take a picture of a cooking utensil or pan and say whether or not it would be safe to keep after coming into contact with flood water.

The 2016 challenge is complete but we post to blog year-round. Look for information about the 2017 #PrepareKS challenge beginning late July.

Food safety after a flood

September is National Preparedness Month. It is also our annual Prepare Kansas online challenge. Prepare Kansas 2016 will provide tips on keeping food safe in emergency situations. This year’s program will be conducted through the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page. No registration is required, so Kansans and anyone interested in planning ahead for emergencies can follow on Facebook and this blog at any time during September, pick up handy information and interact with K-State extension specialists and agents. Today’s post is written by Londa Nwadike, State Extension Consumer Food Safety Specialist for Kansas and Missouri.

After a flood has devastated your home or business, there are many things to be considered, one of which is food safety. Flood water should generally be considered as contaminated, as it is difficult to determine what it has contacted on its way to your property. Water from floods can be contaminated with sewage or animal waste, as well as heavy metals or other chemical industrial contaminants, all of which can be hazardous to human health if consumed.

If you are not sure if the food was directly exposed to flood waters or not, it is safer to throw out the food:  “If in doubt, throw it out”.  This KSU publication contains a more complete list, but in general, if any of the following food items are exposed (or even if potentially splashed with) flood waters, they must be thrown out, even if they would be cooked before consuming, as heavy metals and chemical contaminants are not removed by cooking:

  • Food items in your refrigerator and freezer
  • All foods in boxes, paper, foil or cloth, including cereal, juice, and powdered milk
  • Spices and seasonings
  • All home canned foods, since the area under the seal of the jars cannot be properly disinfected
  • Any food and drinks in containers with screw-caps, pull tops and crimped caps, including salad dressings
  • Flour, grain, sugar, coffee and other staples in canisters

All undamaged commercially prepared foods in metal cans and “retort pouches” (such as shelf stable juices) can be kept, but must be thoroughly washed and disinfected.  This KSU publication has detailed instructions on how to clean such cans and pouches for safety.

As with many situations, it is very important to wash your hands with clean water (not flood water) after your hands come into contact with flood water.  More information on handwashing is available in this blog post.

Kitchen utensils and pans exposed to flood waters must also be evaluated for safety.  All metal pans, ceramic dishes, and metal utensils (such as can openers) can be kept, but must be thoroughly washed and sanitized according to instructions available in this KSU publication.  Wooden and plastic utensils, baby nipples, pacifiers and any other porous items used with food must be thrown out since any contaminants present cannot be completely cleaned off.

When it doubt, throw it out!

September is National Preparedness Month. It is also our annual Prepare Kansas online challenge. Prepare Kansas 2016 will provide tips on keeping food safe in emergency situations. This year’s program will be conducted through the K-State Research and Extension Facebook page. No registration is required, so Kansans and anyone interested in planning ahead for emergencies can follow on Facebook and this blog at any time during September, pick up handy information and interact with K-State extension specialists and agents. Today’s post is written by Londa Nwadike, State Extension Consumer Food Safety Specialist for Kansas and Missouri.

when-in-doubt-throw-it-outOnce your power has returned and you have breathed a huge sigh of relief, now it is time to assess if your refrigerated and frozen foods are safe to keep or not.   The first thing to remember is that you should NEVER taste food to determine if it is safe to eat as you could get sick from consuming potentially contaminated food.  And even if food does taste okay, it could still make you sick.  However, if you do notice that the food has an unusual color, odor, or texture, you should throw it out as it more likely contains organisms that can make you sick.  Another general rule of thumb for food safety in any situation is “when in doubt, throw it out”.  We do not advocate wasting food unnecessarily (see for example a KSU fact sheet on what food product dates really mean), but the cost of throwing away questionable food is far less than the potential cost of someone getting sick or dying from eating contaminated food.

If your refrigerator has been without power for 4 hours, if your food has not been on ice and if your refrigerator thermometer is reading more than 40F, there are a number of foods that would not be safe to keep as microorgansims that can make you sick could have been growing to dangerous levels while the food was over 40F.  A complete list is available from this USDA publication, but some of the key foods that should be thrown out of the refrigerator if the power was out for more than 4 hours include:

  • meat, poultry, fish, and eggs;
  • luncheon meat and hot dogs;
  • casseroles, soups, and pizza;
  • milk, yogurt, sour cream, and soft cheeses; and
  • cooked or cut/peeled fruits and vegetables.

Also, discard any foods such as bread that may have been contaminated by juices dripping from raw meat, poultry, or fish.

A complete list of foods safe to keep is included in the previously mentioned USDA publication, but in general, foods not included in the list above would be safe.

Many of the same rules that apply to evaluating foods in your refrigerator also apply to foods in your freezer, including “When in doubt, throw it out” and never taste food to determine its safety.  The following foods are safe to eat after the power returns to your freezer:

  • frozen foods that have thawed, but still contain ice crystals
  • foods that have remained below 40F (check your freezer thermometer). They may be safely refrozen, although their quality may suffer.
  • foods that don’t actually need to be frozen for safety, such as dried fruits, hard cheeses, and nuts.