As the nation scrambles to grasp the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy's devastation all along the Northeast, the USDA has issued a food safety warning in hopes of helping those stranded without power or dealing with flooding to avoid foodborne illnesses.
Among the warnings, the USDA urges people to follow several steps including:
- Making sure the freezer is set at 0 °F (Fahrenheit) or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out.
- 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.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
- Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Group food together in the freezer—this helps the food stay cold longer.
The agency also warns Americans not to taste foods to determine whether they've spoiled or not. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as long as possible if power is out. Use a thermostat to check temperatures, and discard any meat, eggs, dairy or poultry products that have been in a refrigerator without power for more than 4 hours. Full freezers, says the agency, can stay completely frozen for 48 hours.
Supermarkets throughout the Northeast have been cleaned out—items bought up before the storm hit, reports The Huffington Post. Frozen foods and ingredients that many may not be able to prepare until power returns, were snagged up along with bottled water and first aid supplies. Restaurants in Manhattan have begun reopening—assessing damage and beginning to feed the city's hungry hurricane survivors.
As the "storm of the century" has finished doing most of its damage—creating emergency situations all across the east coast—climate experts are reminding us of the importance of addressing global warming, an issue essentially ignored in the recent presidential debates. "By 2100, New York is projected to experience between one-half and 1.5 meters of sea-level rise," writes Chris Mooney in Grist. "In other words, scientists say, the risk of the “rise of the oceans” is steadily going to increase. And when the next disaster happens, we’ll again realize that they told us so. Just like they did before Katrina, and before Sandy … and before the next big one, whenever it is."
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Image: That Hartford Guy