USDA FSIS issues food safety tips for parts of the Midwest affected by the flooding

WASHINGTON, 2017-May-02 — /EPR Retail News/ — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for parts of the Midwest as severe storms have caused widespread flooding from central Oklahoma to southern Indiana and parts of Missouri.

The National Weather Service reports that significant flooding will continue across the region and more than 79,000 people are without power as additional rainfall and high winds are expected. Destruction and power outages caused by severe weather can compromise food storage, especially frozen and refrigerated foods. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to keep food safe and avoid the risk of foodborne illness during severe weather events.

Food safety after a flood:

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water—this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Flood waters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel‐type can opener.

Steps to follow in advance of losing power:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers.
  • 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.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Anyone with questions about the safety of their food as a result of weather damage and power outages is encouraged to call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline (888-MPHotline or 888-674-6854), Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, available in English and Spanish, or email or chat at www.askkaren.gov.

Contact:
USDA Office of Communications
Press: (202) 720-9113
Consumer Inquiries: (888) 674-6854

Source: USDA

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service shares food safety tips for winter storm impacted northeast states

WASHINGTON, 2017-Mar-15 — /EPR Retail News/ — As a winter storm impacts northeast states, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service shares food safety tips to keep in mind when preparing for a weather emergency.

During Snow and Ice Storms:

  • During a snowstorm, do not place perishable food out in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals. Instead, make ice by filling buckets or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Use this ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.  

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

FSIS’ YouTube video “Food Safety During Power Outages” has instructions for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe. The publication “Preparing for a Weather Emergency” can be downloaded and printed for reference during an emergency. FSIS also has an infographic covering what to do before, during and after a power outage.

If you have questions about food safety during severe weather, or any other food safety topics, can call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888MPHotline or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English and Spanish. Answers to frequently asked question can also be found 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.

SOURCE: USDA FSIS

Food Safety Education Staff
Press (202) 720-9113
Consumer Inquiries (888) 674-6854

USDA issues food safety tips this back-to-school season

WASHINGTON, 2016-Aug-24 — /EPR Retail News/ — Back to school, back to the books, back in the saddle, or back in the car for those of us shuttling students to and from school. The new school year means its back to packing lunches and after school snacks for students, scouts, athletes, dancers, and all the other children who carry these items to and from home. One ‘back’ you do not want to reacquaint children with, however, is foodborne bacteria.

Bacteria that can cause foodborne illness, commonly known as food poisoning, grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In just two hours, these microorganisms can multiply to dangerous levels. To make sure lunches and snacks are safe for those you pack for, follow the USDA’s four steps to food safety: Clean – Separate – Cook – and Chill.

Packing Tips

  • If the lunch/snack contains perishable food items like luncheon meats, eggs, cheese, or yogurt, make sure to pack it with at least two cold sources.  Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly so perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long.
  • Frozen juice boxes or water can also be used as freezer packs. Freeze these items overnight and use with at least one other freezer pack.  By lunchtime, the liquids should be thawed and ready to drink.
  • Pack lunches containing perishable food in an insulated lunchbox or soft-sided lunch bag. Perishable food can be unsafe to eat by lunchtime if packed in a paper bag.
  • If packing a hot lunch, like soup, chili or stew, use an insulated container to keep it hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Tell children to keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot – 140 °F or above.
  • If packing a child’s lunch the night before, parents should leave it in the refrigerator overnight. The meal will stay cold longer because everything will be refrigerator temperature when it is placed in the lunchbox.
  • If you’re responsible for packing snacks for the team, troop, or group, keep perishable foods in a cooler with ice or cold packs until snack time. Pack snacks in individual bags or containers, rather than having children share food from one serving dish.

Storage Tips

  • If possible, a child’s lunch should be stored in a refrigerator or cooler with ice upon arrival. Leave the lid of the lunchbox or bag open in the fridge so that cold air can better circulate and keep the food cold.

Eating and Disposal Tips

  • Pack disposable wipes for washing hands before and after eating.
  • After lunch, discard all leftover food, used food packaging, and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by ‘following’ @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter, and by ‘liking’ Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

If you have questions about storage times of food or beverages, download USDA’s new FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices. By helping users better understand food storage, the FoodKeeper empowers the public to choose storage methods that extend the shelf life of the food and beverages in their home. Better food storage should reduce food waste and reduce the frequency of users preparing and eating products that may be spoiled. The application was recently updated to include food storage information in both Spanish and Portuguese.

USDA has made some of the most significant updates made since the 1950s to the U.S. food safety system during the Obama Administration. New consumer-facing tools, like the FoodKeeper application, allow Americans to further guard themselves and their family against foodborne illnesses. Estimates show that the food safety standards implemented for meat and poultry will reduce illnesses by about 75,000 annually. More information about these efforts can be found on USDA’s Medium page at http://bit.ly/results-ch7.

Contact:

Food Safety Education Staff
Press Inquiries: (202) 720-9113
Consumer Inquiries: (888) 674-6854

Source: USDA

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issues food safety tips for this Super Bowl

WASHINGTON, 2016-Feb-02 — /EPR Retail News/ — The Super Bowl is already the most-watched television program in the United States, and this year’s 50th game is sure to take the experience to a whole new level. The game (or the ads) may be the main event, but the food usually steals the show. With more than 1.3 billon chicken wings and 4 million pizzas expected to be eaten during the big game, there are plenty of opportunities for a food safety penalty to occur.

“This Super Bowl Sunday, sports fans across the U.S. will have a great time watching the game with friends and family, while sharing some of our favorite foods that we are fortunate in this country to enjoy,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “A long game and a big crowd means more opportunities for food poisoning, but some easy precautions can go far in preventing illness.”

To keep you and your guests’ food safe this Super Bowl, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has pulled together the following key food safety plays.

  • To escape a delay of game, use effective clock management with your food. Perishable foods should not be kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Switch out these items during half time to prevent the same foods from sitting out the whole game.
  • Avoid a holding call by keeping hot food hot and cold food cold. Food should remain at a safe temperature and out of the “Danger Zone.” The Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40 °F and 140 °F where bacteria multiply rapidly.
  • Avoid a false start by using a food thermometer to ensure that meat and poultry are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
    • Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal should be cooked to 145°F with a three minute rest time.
    • Raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal should be cooked to 160 °F.
    • All cuts of poultry should reach at least 165 °F.
  • Many cooks think they can finish their cooking play in the kitchen by checking the color and texture of meat or poultry. The only way to safely know if cooking is over and food is ready to eat is by using a food thermometer.
  • Prevent an illegal use of the hands by making sure to thoroughly wash your hands before starting to prepare food, after handling any raw meat or poultry and trash, and after finishing cooking. Thoroughly wash hands by using hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds. “Splashing and dashing” doesn’t count.

Don’t let foodborne illness intercept your plans for the biggest Super Bowl ever celebrated.

Learn more about key food safety practices at foodsafety.gov and on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety. Consumers with questions about food safety, can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

Congressional and Public Affairs
Media Inquiries (202) 720-9113
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