Emergency Preparedness Tip: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART I

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With half of hurricane season still remaining for the Gulf coast and Atlantic seaboard, and with wild weather regularly striking other parts of the country, more Americans are getting a Kohler home generator. Why? One reason is food. Losing a refrigerator and freezer full of food is expensive. Plus, spoiled food can be hazardous to your health.

But a permanently installed Kohler home generator starts automatically and runs without frequent re-fueling so you’ll no longer have to worry. For readers who have not yet installed a Kohler, we offer the following tips on how to keep food longer and safer during an outage.

Store More Cold

aaa68790 copyLet’s say you’ve already prepared your emergency pantry and stocked up on enough water to get you and yours through a power outage. What about the food in your refrigerator and freezer?

How can you make perishables last longer? And how do you know what’s still safe to eat? Knowing what to do before and during an emergency can minimize food that may be lost to spoilage and reduce your risk of food borne illness.

What to do now

O.K., in Part I, we’ll cover “before an emergency.” Here’s what you can do now to prepare.

First, buy two refrigerator-freezer thermometers, one each for your fridge and freezer. These do not have to be the relatively expensive digital models — the analog versions cost under $10, some are less than $5.

It’s very important to remember that during an outage, most of your food is only safe to eat after a limited amount of time. A thermometer is the safest way to determine if food can be saved — or eaten. You’ll learn more about this later in: Are Your Perishables Safe to Eat? – PART II.

zab08994 copySecond, buy an insulated cooler (maybe two if you’re a larger household or have lots of food). About coolers: there are some amazingly efficient, very-thick-walled models that can be expensive and are the best at keeping food cold.

But even very affordable Styrofoam coolers can be surprisingly effective, especially if they include a tight-fitting lid.

Third, make more cold! Think ice. Ice cubes won’t really do the trick because their high surface area means they’ll melt fast. Reusable freezer packs are better. But block ice is best.

Make your own ice blocks by freezing water in common kitchen items like plastic bins, cake pans or meatloaf pans. You can also freeze bottles of water or plastic jugs — when frozen, jugs are nicely contained blocks of ice with a handle! You may be surprised to find that in some cases the water won’t freeze until you move the container or open the cap. That’s a phenomena called “supercooling.”

And, no, you do not have to be concerned that frozen water jugs present a health hazard — that’s a common but thoroughly debunked misconception.

So here’s your plan: make it a practice to fill any available freezer space with those blocks or jugs of ice you made. Why? Because relatively full freezers keep food colder and safer significantly longer — up to twice as long — than nearly empty ones. Keep your empty coolers ready for use after you lose power.

You’ll need to use them when your refrigerator and freezer are no longer cold enough to keep food safe. Also, don’t forget to change your refrigerator and freezer(s) to the coldest setting before an expected storm.

Now that you’ve “made more cold,” how do you keep things cold during an outage? Stay tuned for: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART II.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES

American Red Cross
FDA
USDA

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  1. Emergency Preparedness Tip: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART II | The Kohler Home Generators Blog - September 4, 2013

    […] Part I of this emergency preparedness tip, we discussed how to prep your refrigerator and freezer […]

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