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Blizzard Preparedness: Food Safety in Extreme Winter Weather
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If there’s snow on the ground and icicles hanging from your eaves, storing your food outside may seem like a no-brainer. However, food-safety experts warn against it. Even in very cold temperatures, perishable food and drink can thaw or become too warm when the ground heats up or the sun hits the food. According to the , perishable items left outside can also be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals that harbor bacteria or disease. “Instead of storing food outdoors, pack your well-sealed food into a cooler with frozen ice packs or snow or ice from outside,” suggests Bauer. Monitor the temperature inside the cooler to make sure it stays below 40 degrees, and refill with ice or snow as necessary.
Levinson suggests watching out for cross-contamination of food and spoilage. If your power goes out for less than two hours, the food in your fridge and freezer should be safe to consume, according to the CDC. But if the power is out for longer during a blizzard or winter storm, frozen food can only last for up to 24 to 48 hours. “Freezer items should be eaten when they defrost,” says Levinson, "and all perishable frozen food items that have reached room temperature should be thrown out.” Additionally, do not consume anything from a can that has been dented or damaged, as it could contain harmful bacteria like botulism.
Winter Storm Preparedness
When you know what to look for, stocking up on healthy foods, water, and other disaster supplies for winter storm season is a cinch. “Keep it simple,” says Levinson. “You're not going to cook gourmet meals without electricity or gas, so just make the best meals you can.” When a nor'easter or winter storm warning goes into effect, check your stockpile and remember your family’s diet-specific needs.
“Do the best with what you have,” adds Bauer. “And don’t worry if you’re not eating the healthiest diet packed with fresh fruits and veggies for a few days.” When the blizzard is over, you and your family will get back on track.
Video: Winter Storm Preps: Be Prepared
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