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Safe Food Practices During an Emergency

Safe Food Practices During an Emergency

Emergencies and disasters con severely compromise your food. Power outages can result in your inability to store certain foods properly. Knowing the proper way to address these situations, access safe food, and maintain proper hygiene can make a world of difference. Helping you maintain your food supplies and reduce your risk of food-borne illnesses. We’ve compiled information from both the USDA and CDC on best practices when it comes to food safety before and after a major emergency.

Before an Emergency:

Prepare both your food and supplies to aid in the event of a disaster.

Food storage:

Make sure to have an ample supply of emergency food. Most emergency management offices recommend having at least two weeks of supply. The size of your food store will also depend on the number of individuals in your household.

Store emergency foods in a safe location. Make sure that they are accessible and won’t get damaged. Depending on the type of disaster that may affect you most your storage location will change. For example, in a flood, you’ll want food stored up off the ground and out-side of the flood-zone within your home. I the case of an earthquake store should be in a secure area that is least like to be covered by debris or fall due to shaking. Storage shelves should be secured safely to the walls.


Having coolers frozen gel freezer packs on hand can aid in keeping food cool longer in the event of a power outage. Frozen food keeps longer if kept closer together, coolers can help keep foods at a safe temperate for up to 4 hrs.

Add food and appliance thermometers to your emergency supplies. These can help determine if your food is safe to eat. According to the USDA, refrigerators should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below and freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below to keep food at a safe temperature.

Having an outdoor grill or camp stove with the proper fuel can assist you in properly cooking food when the power is out.


After an Emergency:

After a disaster strikes, you’ll need to reassess your food supply and maintain proper food practices.

Assess food supplies:

The first thing you’ll want to do is go through your perishable and non-perishable food supplies and get rid of any unsafe foods.

  • Remove food that has reached an unsafe temperature, has an odd odor, smell, or coloring.
  • Remove any food with obvious signs of mold.
  • If your fridge has been without power for more than 4 hrs throw away perishable foods, especially meat, eggs, dairy, and leftover meals.
  • Toss any packed or canned food in which the packaging has been damaged.
  • Get rid of any food products that are bulging or spurt liquid or foam after being opened.

Keep food surfaces and supplies sanitary:

  • Wash all dishes in hot soapy water. Rinse then sanitize in either boiling water or soak in a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach per gallon of water for 15 minutes. Let air dry.
  • To clean counter-tops follow similar steps. First, scrub the surface with warm soapy water, rinse, and follow by sanitizing with one tablespoon unscented chlorine bleach diluted in one-gallon water.
  • Don’t use utensils, dishes, or cooking supplies that can’t be sanitized.

Food safety for infants:

  • If an infant is still breastfeeding, remain breastfeeding.
  • If using baby formula, make sure to boil water before mixing formula. Let the formula cool before feeding.
  • Thoroughly clean and sanitize bottles and bottle nipples. Make sure to throw away nipples and pacifiers that have been contaminated by floodwaters; they cannot be sanitized properly.
  • Always wash hands before preparing food for a child.


The CDC has handy printable fact sheets on safe food and water practices during and emergency which can be easily added to your emergency, you can find those here: Food and Water



USDA: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency

CDC: Natural Disasters and Severe Weather: Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster or Emergency



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