DCF, USDA Offer Food Safety Tips to Help Your Family During a Storm

June 25, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin Gillespie,
Press Secretary,
(850) 717-4450
DCF Communications

~ Having access to safe and healthy food should be part of hurricane preparation ~

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Tropical Storm Debby is dumping heavy rains all across the state this week, as another hurricane season makes landfall in Florida.

The Florida Department of Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service want to remind you to think about food safety during your hurricane season preparations. This will ensure that you and your family have access to food in the event of an emergency and also help prevent any foodborne illnesses during a power outage or flooding.

The Department of Children and Families' "Food for Florida" disaster relief program provides emergency food assistance to families in need after a hurricane or another disaster. DCF runs the “Food for Florida” program under federal guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. Florida distributed $270 million in emergency aid to more than 2 million people after Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

"Our agency recently tested this program to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of Floridians during a disaster," said Suzanne Vitale, DCF's assistant deputy secretary. "We are implementing new technology that will help us get food to families in need more quickly."

Individuals and families should have an emergency plan in place that includes safe food and water storage. Here are some steps that will help you feed your families safely:

  • Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to help determine if food is safe during power outages. The refrigerator temperature should be 40° F or lower and the freezer should be 0° F or lower.
  • 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 and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items) that have been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40° F for two hours or more.
  • Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans or pouches can be saved.
  • Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters. If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety.

"As you prepare your home for hurricane season, remember to protect food from being exposed to contaminated water or unsafe storage temperatures in a power outage," USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. "When it comes to emergencies of any kind, planning ahead is always the best strategy to help reduce the risk of foodborne illness."

To prepare your family for a hurricane, please go to the state of Florida's "Get a Plan"” site at www.floridadisaster.org. For more information about the "Food for Florida"” program, please go to www.dcf.state.fl.us/fff. For more information about food safety, please download "A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes" at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Severe_Storms_and_Hurricanes_Guide.pdf.