How To Protect Your Food During a Power Outage

Hurricanes, snowstorms, floods, and earthquakes are often predicted, while earthquakes  and tornadoes may take us by surprise.  Any of these weather-related disrupters can leave us without power and clean water.  Any of these can be a threat to our perishable refrigerated and frozen foods, our shelf-stable foods, and the water we need for drinking, cooking, and washing. 

 

The disastrous effects of Hurricane Sandy encouraged us to pull together the following collection of tips about preparing for bad weather and handling food during bad weather.  It  suggests items to have in your home at all times, items to rush out and buy when weather-related trouble is imminent,  and steps to take while one of these incidents is in progress.  Our site's Advisory Board scientists made many contributions to this article.  

 

I Left It Out Too Long! Can I Still Eat It?

cantaloupeFunny thing, but almost every question we get from our site members is a variation of the same question.  Optimists phrase it positively: “Can I still eat it?”  Pessimists ask, “Do I have to throw it out?”  In either case, it’s a query about food that has been kept too long in the “danger zone” (40°F-140°F), in other words, a perishable food that hasn’t been kept hot enough or cold enough to prevent bacterial growth. No one wants to discard food that cost a lot and/or took a long time to prepare.  So we did some research and asked two food scientists on the Shelf Life Advice Advisory Board to provide specific and general answers to “Is it really spoiled?” questions.

Winter Food Storage—Can I leave It in the Car or in the Garage?

Food in CarSummer heat is riskier than winter chill in terms of food contamination, but  winter presents its own challenges for food spoilage or pathogen growth.  Let’s consider some typical winter situations involving food storage.

Sudden, Awful Intestinal Distress--Is it the Flu or a Foodborne Illness--or Both?

flu"Was it a bug or something I ate?" victims often wonder as they run repeatedly to the bathroom. But this is not really an either/or matter. There's a lot of overlapping of these categories. What we commonly call "stomach flu" is usually caused by the norovirus. This winter season, there's a particularly nasty strain of it spreading rapidly throughout the country.  It's easily contracted, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) from an infected person, food or water, or even contaminated objects.  It can come from a friend's sneeze (or kiss), salad, or, often, a public washroom doorknob.  But this highly contagious condition is different from the intestinal discomfort caused by eating food that has become contaminated due to mishandling.  The latter is not contagious, not transferable from person to person.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Anyone Who Cooks--or Wants to

Do your relatives and friends come to your house to eat because they hate cooking?  Then this is the wrong gift list for you.  But for those who cook because they must or because they actually enjoy puttering with food, you may find the perfect gift among these ideas, a combination of recommendations from the Shelf Life Advice board scientists and from publications that I (your SLA editor) looked at recently. 

Tips for Winter Holiday Meals

New Years Eve party toastFrom eggnog to fruitcake and all that’s served in between, our Advisory Board members have provided tips to help make your holiday feast(s) safe and tasty. So let’s get started on our journey through the traditional holiday dinner.

 

BEVERAGES

Food process engineer Dr. Tim Bowser provides these tips on handling the season’s traditional alcoholic beverages.

 

Making and storing eggnog:

Of course, you can buy non-alcoholic eggnog in almost every grocery store this time of year and then add the alcohol. But if you want to make your own, you’ll find some of my favorite recipes are available at the following links.

How long can I keep refrigerated leftovers?

Leftover Food scientist Susan Brewer offers the following advice: the amount of time which leftovers are safe and/or of good quality depends on the leftovers.

 

Mixed dishes which contain (cooked) animal products (such as meat, milk, and eggs) tend to have the shortest shelf life both for quality and safety reasons. They may have originally had pathogenic bacteria associated with them. If cooking didn’t kill every single one, the bacteria can grow (slowly), making the product unsafe. Three days is the standard length of time recommended for these products.

Serving Guests Safely

Christmas dinnerYou didn’t invite invisible guests to your party, so don’t let them sneak in. Lock out those ugly pathogens that cause food-borne illness by following simple recommendations from food safety experts.

Hosts and hostesses usually prepare more than enough food, and guests rarely consume everything in sight, so, inevitably, after the event, party-givers often wind up with a packed refrigerator. Thankfully, food safety experts have also developed guidelines for safe handling of leftovers. 

Tips on Reheating for Safe, Yummy Leftovers

leftover pizzaRemember "srevotfel"?  You ate it, but perhaps you didn't love it. No, this isn't an exotic imported dish; it's just "leftovers" spelled backwards to avoid calling a re-warmed meal by an unappealing name. You'll probably have leftovers in your not-too-distant future. After all, you don't want your holiday spread to look skimpy; you know that, when the pickings seem lean, guests take less. But, when you cook too much for the size of the crowd you're entertaining, leftovers are inevitable.  So what, of all this stuff they didn't eat, can be safely reheated, and how can we make srevotfel taste good enough to be devoured with enthusiasm?  In the following Q/As, we have expert answers from our Board scientists and the U.S. government.  Let's begin with safety.

Yikes! The Turkey Is Done, But the Guests Are Delayed! How Do I Keep My Thanksgiving Dinner Warm?

Woman serving Thanksgiving TurkeyThe turkey is done, but where are the guests? Winter weather and too much traffic can slow down cars and planes. And then there are those who live around the corner from you but are chronically late for everything. Don’t invite them next year. Find prompter friends. But that doesn’t solve this year’s problem: how to keep food at a safe and appetizing temperature while waiting for dilatory diners. This article will cover holding techniques used by experts.  But first, some basics about food safety and the definition of a cooked turkey.

 
 

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