Keep your food and water safe when severe weather strikes

LANSING –The Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) today encouraged residents to be prepared for when severe weather strikes.  National Severe Weather Awareness Week is from March 27 to April 2, and serves as a reminder for people to take a few simple precautions to keep their food and water safe when severe weather events occur.

“Spring marks the start of the traditional growing season in Michigan, but it also brings the threat of severe and damaging weather that can compromise the safety of food and water supplies,” said Keith Creagh, MDARD’s director.  “By following a few easy, basic food and water safety precautions, you can help protect your family’s health during severe weather events; and always remember – when in doubt, throw it out.”

When severe weather hits, follow these important food and water safety tips:

•If flooding has occurred, discard any foods that have come into contact with flood waters.

•Drink only approved or chlorinated water if your area has sustained damage from tornadoes or other storms; follow any “boil water” alerts issued by health and safety personnel in your area, especially for water used for washing or cooking.

•Discard any items that may contain particles of glass or slivers of debris, and throw away food in dented cans or in cans with broken seams.

•If a power outage has occurred, keep the refrigerator/freezer door closed as much as possible to maintain adequate temperature.

•Always discard anything that turns moldy, or has an unusual color or odor.

•Perishable refrigerated foods (meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, etc.) should be thrown out if they reach temperatures warmer than 40°F for more than two hours.

•Frozen foods that thaw and reach temperatures above 40 degrees should be discarded.

Refrigerated foods will generally be safe as long as the power is not out for more than a few hours and the doors have remained closed.

A freezer full of food will usually keep for about two days (a half-full freezer about a day) if the door is kept shut.  If the power will be off indefinitely, you may want to add dry ice, block ice or bags of ice in the freezer.  Twenty-five pounds of dry ice should maintain freezing temperatures in a 10-cubic foot freezer for about four days.  Use an appliance thermometer to monitor the temperature.

For more information, visit or; or call the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Food Information Line at 888-SAFE-FOOD.