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 Taking precautions for food and water safety

In the case of an electrical outage, it is important to take careful precautions to ensure food safety. The risk of food poisoning is heightened when refrigerators and ovens are inaccessible; discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.

Just remember, “When in doubt, throw it out!” People can practice safe food handling and prevent food-borne illness by following simple steps:

  • Frozen and refrigerated foods can be unsafe after hurricane. When the power is out, refrigerators will keep foods safe for only about four hours.
  • Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still "refrigerator cold," or re-frozen if it still contains ice crystals.
  • Commercially prepared cans of food should not be eaten if there is a bulging or opening on the can or the screw caps, soda pop bottle tops or twist-caps.

Communities hit by flooding and power outages may have compromised water systems and wells. Water treatment plants may not be operating, even if they are, storm damage and flooding can contaminate water lines. Listen for public announcements about the safety of the municipal water supply.

If a well has been flooded, it needs to be tested and disinfected after the storm passes and the floodwaters recede. Safe drinking water includes bottled, boiled or treated water. Here are some general rules concerning water for drinking and cooking.

  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, or make ice.
  • When using bottled water, know where it came from. Otherwise, water should be boiled or treated before use. Drink only bottled, boiled or treated water until the water supply is tested and found safe.
  • Boiling water kills harmful bacteria and parasites. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most organisms.
  • Infants should be fed only pre-prepared canned baby formula. Use sterile water when preparing formula.
  • Water may be treated with chlorine or iodine tablets, or by mixing eight drops (one-eighth of a teaspoon) of unscented, ordinary household chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Mix the solution thoroughly, and let stand for about 30 minutes. However, this treatment will not kill parasitic organisms.

Containers for water should be rinsed with a bleach solution before reusing them. Use water storage tanks and other types of containers with caution.

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