Local AgCenter agent: Time to prepare for hurricane is now

By BECKY B. GAUTREAUX, RD, LDN

LSU AgCenter area

nutrition agent

It is that time of the year again: Hurricane season. Since hurricane season is under way, now is the time to prepare rather than days before a landfall.

Do you know how safe your food is during a power outage? Knowing how to properly prepare for a storm will prevent a major loss of food and also will minimize the possibility of a food-borne illness occurring.

Begin with an inventory of your kitchen. Make sure you have a manual can opener, scissors and knives to open food packaging. Plastic utensils, cups and plates may also be needed. Also, stock up on bottled water and healthy can goods.

When it comes to water consumption and use, prepare for one gallon per person or pet per day. Gallon jugs are more cost effective than personal-size bottles.

Just because there is a hurricane does not mean it is time to eat “snack cakes” for every meal. If you have special dietary needs such as low-sodium, it is more important during a hurricane to follow those food guidelines.

Purchase healthy nonperishable foods — cans or jars — that require little or no cooking and require no refrigeration. They should be large enough for one meal without any leftovers. Enjoy the cans of beets and tuna that you have saved for this moment.

Nut butters and 100 percent whole wheat bread also make a healthy meal when the power is out. You should have an appliance thermometer for every freezer and refrigerator. This will help to determine the safety of your food during and after the storm.

Days before a storm is projected to hit, freeze containers of water to use as ice blocks. These ice blocks will increase the time food will remain safe.

Have coolers on hand to store perishable food in, along with the homemade ice blocks to keep the food safe if the power will be out for more than four hours.

During the storm, minimize the times you open the refrigerator and freezer. This will keep the food colder for a longer period of time. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the refrigerator will keep food cold for four hours without being opened.

A freezer will hold its temperature for one to two days depending on its fullness and if the door remains closed. Having the homemade ice blocks or dry ice will increase the time.

When the power is back on, clean up time begins. Inspect your foods that were in the freezer for ice crystals. If ice crystals are not present, it is recommended to throw the product out.

Never taste a food to decide its safety. Frozen fruits and vegetables may be refrozen if they show no signs of mold, odor or slime. Keep in mind they may suffer texture and flavor loss.

Flour, nuts, waffles, pancakes and bagels can all be refrozen. Bread dough and pastries can refreeze, although quality loss is greater. Discard any food has come into contact with flood water.

On a budget? During the year purchase a few items you would like to have during a hurricane … batteries, food, water, etc.

Keep in mind, the danger zone wherein bacteria can grow is 40 to 140 degrees. Keep your perishable foods out of this range, and you will be fine.

Remember … When in Doubt, Throw it Out! For more information, visit www.fsis.usda.gov.

Editor’s Note: Becky B. Gautreaux, is with the St. Mary Parish LSU AgCenter office, St. Mary Parish Courthouse, Room 314, in Franklin. She can be reached at 985-873-6495 or email her at bgautreaux@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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