January 17, 2018

Oklahoma Issues Warning About Food Safety After Storms

The state of Oklahoma is warning citizens to be careful about food safety after this week’s devastating storms. Severe weather knocked out power to tens of thousands of people living in that state. There are specific steps you can take to assure the safety of your food when the power goes out.

Volunteers offering food must make sure that the food is safe. Free food or food for sale to residents, responders, and relief workers should not require refrigeration and should be edible without heating. The OSDA says that “packaged, shelf-stable, ready-to-eat foods are the best option when safe refrigeration and cooking are a problem.”¬†Environmental specialists from local county health departments will be on site in the storm damaged areas to make sure food is safe.

They also recommend that food should be protected from flying debris and insets by using screens in any open areas. Always thaw food in the refrigerator before cooking, and cool food quickly before storing it in the fridge or freezer. Cook all food thoroughly, serve at the correct temperature (below 40 degrees F. and above 140 degrees F.) and avoid cross-contamination. Always use clean utensils to handle cooked foods, and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling, serving, and eating food. Minimize food holding times and wear gloves when serving food to others.

Water can be another issue. The CDC offers tips to keep water safe after a disaster. Flood water can contaminate drinking water and food. Water can “often” be made safe by boiling, adding disinfectants, or filtering. But water contaminated with fuel or toxic chemicals can’t be made safe with these methods. Bottled water can be safe, but the bottle itself can be contaminated by floodwaters, so they should be disinfected before you drink.

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