USDA offers food safety tips before, during and after Tropical Storm Barry

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by Tropical Storm Barry.

A tropical disturbance in the northern Gulf Coast has been named Tropical Storm Barry by the National Hurricane Center and is forecast to become Hurricane Barry as it intensifies into the weekend.

Dangerous hurricane conditions are expected along a portion of the coast of Louisiana, where a Hurricane Warning has already been issued. Regardless of whether Barry remains a tropical storm or becomes a hurricane, the slow movement of the storm will result in a long duration of torrential rains along the central Gulf Coast and inland through the lower Mississippi Valley through the weekend into early next week.

This system will bring a threat of significant flash flooding, storm-surge flooding and high winds to parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, especially along the and east of the track of the system. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation. Flooding can compromise the safety of stored food. Areas that don`t normally experience flash flooding, could. Residents impacted by floods should pay close attention to the forecast. FSIS recommends that consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other emergency events.

Plan Ahead If You Can

  • If possible, raise refrigerators and freezers off the floor, putting cement blocks under their corners.
  • Move canned goods and other foods that are kept in the basement or low cabinets to a higher area.

Food Safety After a Flood

  • Use bottled drinking water that has not come in contact with flood water.
  • Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it may have come in contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.
  • Also discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood waters. They cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods; 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.
  • Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers that may have come in contact with flood waters. There is no way to safely clean them.
  • Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, utensils (including can openers) with soap and water (hot water if available). Rinse and sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
  • Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water (hot water if available). Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water. Allow to air-dry.
  • Note: If your refrigerator or freezer was submerged by floodwaters — even partially — it is unsafe to use and must be discarded.

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