Nov 24

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Food Safety in Urban Survival Situations

How long will the food last in your refrigerator or freezer?  This is a good question and a good topic to start with.  If the power goes out, or in an emergency, what do you do with your fresh food?  Let’s start with the basics.

First, eat the food in your refrigerator first and keep the door closed as much as possible.  The refrigerator will keep food safe and cold for about 4 hours if unopened.  A freezer that is full will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours and half of that if only half full.  If you can find a block of dry ice, a 50 pound block will keep the unit cool for approximately 2 days.  Remember, bacteria thrive between 40′ F and 140′ F  And just because food is refrigerated, it doesn’t mean the bacteria stop growing, they just grow slower.  That is the reason why food spoils when in the refrigerator….most raw food will spoil in a couple of days and cooked food will usually last a week.  When food is frozen the bacteria are dormant….. freezer burn is a dehydration issue and not a food safety issue.  Now the kill off zone for bacteria is 145′ F and prepared foods must be kept at a temperature of at least 140′ until served or bacteria will start growing again.

Below is a sampling of popular foods and shelf life:

Eggs    unrefrigerated  2 hours….   refrigerated in shell   4-5 weeks

Veggies   Root vegetables do not need refrigeration, store in a cool dry environment.  If you are refrigerating vegetables, don’t wash them before putting them in the fridge, just wrap them loosely.

Meat     refrigerated meat should be consumed within 4 days of purchase.  Frozen meat last much longer and the temperature should be -10′ F   Proper packaging of the meat will extend its storage time….for example  beef, lamb and fish can last 6 months, veal and fresh pork..4 months and sausage 2 months.  Remember that you should recognise the “normal” color of frozen meat so you will be able to identify spoiled meat.  Proper packaging is the key.

The last thing anyone needs is a crises or emergency situation is food poisoning.  Food poisoning can be deadly and the germs contagious so keep in mind these areas of possible contamination: Environmental factors, food processing, food storage and food preparation.

Symptoms of food poisoning are stomach cramps, pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or flu like symptoms, tiredness and loss of energy or a desire to sleep.

Home treatment of food poisoning:  Control Nausea and vomiting by avoiding solid foods until the nausea passes then eat light, bland foods like crackers, bananas or bread.  Sipping soda may help.  Don’t eat greasy, fried, spicy or sweet foods.  Do not take anti nausea meds without asking your doctor.  Prevent dehydration by drinking clear fluids….small sips at first then drinking more.  If vomiting and diarrhea lasts more than 24 hours, drink an oral re-hydration solution.

Recipe for Oral Re-hydration Solution  (ORS):

6 level teaspoons of sugar

1/2 level teaspoon of salt

5 cups of water  (clean drinking water or boiled water then cooled)

Mix the salt and sugar until it’s dissolved.  That is it!.

So basically, it comes down to common sense and preparation.  I know that in emergency conditions, sometimes common sense goes out the window but just slow down, think and live.

Joe Cherry

Food charts are suggestions of the USDA.


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