Food Safety tips during the passing of a Hurricane Minimizes Potential for Foodborne Illnesses

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Office of Disaster Management (ODM) which falls under the Fire Department is advising residents to review their hurricane emergency supply kit to make sure they have sufficient non-perishable foods.

Residents are going to need supplies not just to get through the storm, but for the potentially lengthy and unpleasant aftermath depending on the amount of damage that has been left behind.

Every household must have enough non-perishable food, water and medicine to last each person in your family a minimum of one week.  Electricity and water could be out for at least that long.

The objective is to minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses in the event of power outages associated with the passing of a hurricane.

Hurricanes not only pose dangers to people’s physical safety, but also power outages can affect the safety of the food people may depend on after a hurricane strike.

Steps to be taken before the arrival of a hurricane: Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

Make sure the freezer is at 0°F or below and the refrigerator is at 40°F or below.  Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.

Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler.  Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.

Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.  Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

Steps to follow after the hurricane has passed are: Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.  The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.

Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.

Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below when checked with a food thermometer. Never taste a food to determine its safety!

When buying prepared food from restaurants after the passing of a storm or hurricane, ask critical questions about the food preparation and always use your senses: smell and taste; an if you suspect or doubt the quality of the food, throw it out!!