Safe food after a tornado

Tornados are a reality in Michigan. Know what foods and water are safe to eat after such an unfortunate event. Plan ahead for food safety after a disaster.

According to the Michigan State Police Emergency Management Division, tornados are rated high in human health risks because of the possibility for unprotected individuals in a storm path and lack of warning time. One thing many people don’t think about when it comes to tornados is the risk for food borne illness and water contamination.

The water supply in areas that have sustained tornado damage may be disrupted. If your community is hit by a tornado, be alert for community water systems being unsafe or suspicious of contamination. Drink only approved or chlorinated water. Consider all water from wells, cisterns and other delivery systems in the disaster area unsafe until tested. Purchase bottled water until you are certain the water supply is safe. Water from undamaged hot water tanks and pipes is generally safe to drink in an emergency situation.

Beware of spoiled foods after a tornado. Check foods and discard any containing particles of glass or other debris. Discard canned foods with broken seams. As a precaution, always keep your freezer as full as possible. You can use plastic containers filled with water to fill empty spaces. Keep a clean cooler on hand and freezer packs for keeping foods cold. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to monitor safe temperatures. The refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees F and freezer at 0 degrees F. Potentially hazardous foods cannot be held between 41 degrees F and 135 degrees F for more than four hours. Remember, you should not rely on the appearance or odor of foods to determine if they are safe. Never taste food to determine its safety.

Examples of potentially hazardous food from refrigerator include:

  • Milk and milk products
  • Sliced fresh fruits
  • Beef, pork, lamb
  • Poultry
  • Shellfish and crustaceans
  • Fish
  • Baked potatoes
  • Eggs
  • Cooked rice, beans and vegetables

Examples of potentially hazardous food from freezer include:

  • Meals and poultry (If kept at 40 degrees, meats and poultry can be thoroughly cooked and refrozen.)
  • Vegetables (Thoroughly cook and serve thawed vegetables immediately or refreeze after cooking.)
  • Fish and shellfish (Throw these way.  These highly perishable foods may be spoiled without any bad odor.)
  • Baked goods (Breads, cakes and pastries without custard fillings may be refrozen.)
  • Casseroles and stews (These should be cooked and reheated thoroughly, and then served immediately.)

Planning ahead for seasonal storms can help families prepare for emergencies. Keep an extra water supply as well as emergency foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking. Store foods that keep well from each of the food groups, to provide a variety of nutrients you need. Keep foods are their best quality by storing them in a clean, dry and cool environment.

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