By Laura Durston
Most people in Cayman have been through at least one season of stocking up in preparation for a hurricane and, unfortunately, many have been through the storm, the aftermath and the associated change in eating habits and cooking methods.
Food safety may go by the wayside in a natural disaster but here are a few examples of things that will help lessen the likelihood of food-related illness:
GOOD CHOICES TO PUT IN HURRICANE KIT
- Store at least three days worth of non-perishable food that requires no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. Ensure you have a manual can opener.
- Stock plastic plates and utensils to limit the need for cleaning.
- Check use-by dates on canned goods to make sure they will last.
- Hurricane supplies will have to be altered for those with medical conditions, special diets or those with young children.
- High energy foods will power you through both the storm and any hard labor in the aftermath.
- Try to stock food from each food group. Good proteins to stock include canned fish and chicken, which does not need cooking.
- Stock one gallon of water per person, per day to ensure hydration, aiming for a three to seven day supply.
Try to stock food from each food group. Good proteins to stock include canned fi sh and chicken, which does not need cooking.
- Put appliance thermometers in your fridge and freezer. Ensure that the freezer is at or below 0 F and the refrigerator is at or below 40 F.
- Keep the freezer full to ensure the cool temperature lasts as long as possible should the power go out. A good way of doing this is to cook all of your meat and freeze it. This keeps the freezer cool, saves cooking later and lengthens the usability of the meats.
- Keep fridges/freezers closed as much as possible to maintain the cool temperature if the power goes out.
- Raise fridges/freezers with cement blocks if flooding is likely.
- Move all hurricane supplies above the ground to escape any possible flood water.
FOOD SAFETY IN THE AFTERMATH
- Don’t eat food that has come into contact with flood water as it may carry silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical waste. This includes food from containers with screw-caps, snap lids, soda bottles, twist caps as these are difficult to disinfect.
- Throw away food that has unusual colors, odors or textures and cans/jars that are broken or leaking.
- Throw away canned foods that are bulging or damaged. Cans, dishes and pans that have come in contact with floodwaters can be disinfected with 1 tbsp of bleach to one gallon water. Re-label (including the expiration date) with a marker after disinfection. Countertops can also be sanitized with this mix.
- Use bottled water for all cooking and cleaning, or boil water to purify.
- If the power goes out, be wary of food kept in the fridge/freezer. Freezers, if left unopened and full, will hold their temperature for 48 hours (24 hours if half full). If the food still contains ice crystals, or is 40 F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than four hours. Discard any refrigerated perishable food such as meats and soft cheese after four hours without power.
- Avoid having garbage accumulate inside.