Food safety emergency preparedness for families

Disasters and emergencies can happen anytime. Be prepared with safe food and water.

Vehicles on a street after an ice storm.
Photo: Flickr/CC.

Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and sometimes without warning. Being prepared for an emergency can give your family a better chance for a quick and safe recovery. Planning ahead for power outages can help minimize the threat to health and prevent foodborne illnesses. Having an emergency food supply is especially important when transportation needs, weather or health prevent you from getting your usual supplies. 

The American Red Cross recommends keeping a three-day emergency supply of non-perishable food.  Non-perishable foods require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking.  Emergency foods should be kept in clean containers, away from extreme heat or cold. 

Michigan State University Extension recommends:

  • Rotating emergency food supplies every six months. Check the “use by” and expiration dates and replace with new groceries as needed.
  • Low-acid foods such as canned meats, poultry, stew, soups, beans, carrots and corn will last two to five years, unopened.
  • High-acid foods such as canned fruits, juices, pickles and tomatoes will last 12 to 18 months unopened.
  • Make sure you have a manual can opener, eating utensils, disposable dishes and sanitizing wipes.
  • Never taste or eat foods from leaking, rusty, bulging or badly dented cans. Once seals have been broken oxygen and mold can enter and cause contamination. 

For a three-day emergency supply, Ready.gov recommends storing at least one gallon of water per person per day. It is important to build your water supply to meet your family’s needs. Nursing mothers, young children or those with health challenges may need additional water. To ensure quality, replace stored water twice a year.

Being prepared for an emergency will help your family meet their basic needs until everyday services are restore.  To learn more about food safety, visit the MSU Extension Safe Food and Water website.

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