The Florida Department of Health in Broward County reminds everyone that it is important to take precautions to ensure food safety in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. The risk of food poisoning is heightened when refrigerators and ovens are inoperable. 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!
Practice safe food handling and prevent food-borne illness by following these simple steps:
- Always keep a thermometer in your refrigerator. The temperature should read 41 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or below.
- A full cooler will maintain its cold temperature longer than one that is partially filled, so it is important to pack plenty of extra ice or freezer packs to insure a constant cold temperature. If available, 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a ten-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. Use care when handling dry ice and wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.
- Thawed food can usually be eaten if it is still “refrigerator cold.”
- Eggs and other foods need to be stored in 41F or slightly below. Do not eat foods that may have spoiled.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected and cooled. Hands should be washed:
- Before preparing or eating food
- Using the bathroom or changing a diaper
- Handling uncooked food
- Playing with a pet
- Handling garbage
- Tending to someone who is sick or injured
- Blowing your nose
- Coughing or sneezing
- Participating in flood cleanup activities
- Handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
- Fight “cross-contamination,” which is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods. Never place any type of food on a plate, cutting board or utensil that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
- When grilling foods, preheat the coals on your grill for 20-30 minutes or until the coals are lightly coated with ash. GRILLS SHOULD NEVER BE PLACED INDOORS.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure that food reaches a safe internal temperature.
- Hamburgers and ground poultry should be cooked to 160 F. Poultry parts: 170 F. Roasts, steaks and other large cuts of beef: 145 F (rare) and 160 F (medium).
- Fish should be cooked until the meat is opaque and flakes easily.
- Use sanitized food and water bowls for your pets and be sure that they do not drink from flood-contaminated surfaces.
- Never taste food to determine its safety!
For additional food safety information, call the USDA/FSIS Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Food safety specialists (both English and Spanish speaking) are available from 10AM to 4PM on weekdays year-round.