The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing food safety and livestock safety guidance for residents in states who might be affected by Hurricane Sandy.
USDA is offering these tips to help residents protect themselves and the health of their animals in the event of power outages, flooding and other problems that could be associated with the storm.
Follow state or local officials for emergency information, such as your local Emergency Alert System television or radio stations, and fire, police and other local emergency response organizations.
Make sure barns and structures where livestock can be sheltered are in good repair. If more space is needed for your stock, make arrangements for the use of other sheltering facilities in close proximity to your facilities.
Calculate the feed and water requirements to maintain livestock and poultry during an emergency.
Make preparations for protecting feed and water supplies and providing emergency electrical power if necessary.
If possible, cover feed and forage stored outdoors with a tarp or plastic sheeting. Routinely cover open water supplies, such as troughs and stock tanks.
Power outages and flooding that often result from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food, and planning ahead can minimize the risk of foodborne illness, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service says.
"Keeping food at safe storage temperatures in a power outage and away from flood waters is crucial to avoiding foodborne illness in weather emergencies," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "We encourage residents in the projected path of the storm to include an appliance thermometer, coolers, and dry ice on their Hurricane Sandy preparation checklists. As a last resort for food safety, when in doubt, throw it out."
To prepare and handle possible weather emergencies, follow these steps:
* Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to help determine if food is safe during power outages. The refrigerator temperature should be 40° F or lower and the freezer should be 0° F or lower.
* Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
* Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
* 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.
* 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.
* Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
After a weather emergency:
* Check the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. If the thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe.
* If no thermometer was used in the freezer, check each package. If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below when checked with a food thermometer, it may be safely refrozen.
* Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items) that have been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40° F for two hours or more.
* Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
* Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
* Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved. Follow the Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches in the publication " Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency."
* Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety.
* Never taste food to determine its safety!
* When in Doubt, throw it out!
FSIS will provide relevant food safety information as the storm progress from its Twitter feed @USDAFoodSafety.
More information about pet preparedness is available at: http://www.ready.gov/america/getakit/pets.html
Additional information and updates about USDA's hurricane relief efforts are posted at www.usda.gov/disaster.