Food safety emergency preparedness for families

Guidelines for keeping an emergency food supply in case of a disaster.

Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and sometimes without warning. Preparing your household can give your family a better chance of a quick recovery during an emergency. An emergency food supply will mean you will not go hungry when transportation, weather, health, power outage or other problems prevent you from getting your usual grocery supplies.

The American Red Cross recommends keeping a three-day emergency food supply. Emergency foods should be kept separate from regular groceries, to make sure they are available when needed. An emergency food supply should be kept in a convenient location, in a clean, cool environment away from extreme heat or cold. Extremely hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and freezing temperatures are harmful to canned goods.

Michigan State University Extension recommends selecting non-perishable foods, those that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking for your emergency food supply. 

Date the foods as you buy them. Never eat foods from leaking, rusty, bulging or badly dented cans. Throw out jars that are cracked or with loose or bulging lids. Once seals have been broken oxygen can enter and cause contamination. Never taste foods from cans that have broken seals or bulging lids.

Consider including foods that can be eaten cold, such as small cans of fruit, juice boxes, tuna or other canned meats, pudding cups, peanut butter, crackers and non-fat dry milk. Make sure you have a manual can opener, eating utensils and disposable dishes also on hand.

Follow the “use by” dates and replace current supplies with new groceries when needed. Low-acid canned goods (meats, poultry, stew, soups, beans, carrots, corn, etc.) will last two to five years, unopened. High-acid canned goods (fruits, juices, pickles, tomato soup, etc.) will last 12-18 months, unopened.

When storing water for an emergency. Keep at least a three-day supply of clean water on hand per person. Plan for at least one gallon of water per person, per day. This is the minimum amount a person will need for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. To ensure quality, replace stored water twice a year.

Being prepared for an emergency will make your family better able to weather any storm that comes your way. Take steps to help avoid an emergency becoming a crisis so that your family will have all their basic needs met until everyday services are restored.

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