Charleston, West Virginia, Monday, July 16, 2012 — Many folks have returned to their homes for the first time since the storm originally hit on June 29th and the American Red Cross would like to share some tips on food safety and the safe disposal of spoiled food.
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Never taste food or rely on appearance or odor to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been at room temperature too long, bacteria causing food-borne illnesses can start growing quickly. Some types of bacteria produce toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking.
- If you are not sure food is cold enough, take its temperature with the food thermometer. Throw out any foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to touch.
- If food in the freezer is colder than 40° F and has ice crystals on it, you can refreeze it.
Spoiled foods may contain dangerous microorganisms. Contact with these foods may lead to cross-contamination of consumable foods and food contact surfaces leading to food borne illness. Food waste and decaying food may also attract disease carrying vermin and rodents. After a disaster or weather emergency occurs, take the following steps to safely dispose of food waste:
- Place spoiled food or food that has the potential to decay into plastic bags
- Store in designated areas for pick-up or transport to designated disposal areas
- Check with your local waste hauler or community emergency officials for guidelines specific to your community for disposal of disaster-related waste
Orderly clean-up after a disaster is important to prevent impact of waste on human health and the environment. Do NOT mix different types of waste or pile different types together for collection. Waste that rots or decays quickly should be kept apart from other waste or disaster debris, placed in heavy-duty plastic bags or containers, and disposed of quickly. This includes:
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Dairy products.
- Small animal carcasses.
- Sanitary products.
- Medicines that have been contaminated or spoiled.
As food waste spoils or decays, it can be a health hazard and can attract rodents and other vermin.
Take the following steps to clean refrigerators and freezers:
- Remove everything from the refrigerator or freezer.
- Use paper towels or rags to wipe up spills and leaks and dispose of them with the food waste.
- Wash out the refrigerator or freezer with a strong bleach solution. Use 1½ cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Use latex or rubber gloves if you have sensitive skin that may be irritated by the bleach solution.
- Wash out the appliance with warm, soapy water.
- To remove odors, wipe out the appliance with a mixture of water and baking soda, or keep a box of baking soda in the appliance. You also may want to air out the appliance for a few days before plugging it in and using it again. Secure doors in an open position to provide air flow and keep children away.
For more information on the West Virginia American Red Cross go to:
HOW PEOPLE CAN HELP Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief by visiting www.redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.