Author:Paul, Bajinder
Position:THE ENVIRONMENT - Food safety during winter storms

THE Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by any major winter storm.

High winds produced by severe winter storms present the possibility of home flooding as well as power outages that can compromise the safety of stored food. Residents in the path of a storm should pay close attention to the forecast. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following precautions to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other severe weather events.

Here are some steps to follow in advance of losing power:

* Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage--40[degrees]F or lower in the refrigerator; 0[degrees] or lower in the freezer.

* Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so do not overfill the containers.

* Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk, and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately. This helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.

* Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.

* Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.

* Group foods together in the freezer. This "igloo" effect helps the food stay cold longer.

* Keep a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

* Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door stays shut. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half full).

* Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.

* Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-foot freezer cold for two days.

* Do not heat your home with a gas range or oven, as it can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide.

* During a snowstorm, do not place perishable food in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals. Instead, make ice by filling buckets or cans...

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