Newsroom > DHHS News Release


June 5, 2008

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047,
Kathie Osterman, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-9313 or (402) 326-4277,

Note: Sound bites on this topic are available at:


Storms, Flooding and Power Outages Can Affect Food Safety

Lincoln—Recent storms, flooding and power outages can affect the quality and safety of food supplies, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

To minimize the loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness, use these guidelines:

  • Because flood water may contain harmful bacteria and chemical contaminants, discard any food without a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water.
  • Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels, wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of one cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Re-label the cans, including expiration date, with a marker.
  • Food containers with screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, & flip tops should be discarded if they have come into contact with flood water because these types of lids are not water-tight. Home-canned goods should also be discarded.
  • For infants, use only prepared canned baby formula that requires no added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated water.
  • If the power is out for less than 4 hours, the food in the refrigerator is safe to consume. While the power is out, keep refrigerator door closed as much as possible to keep food cold longer. After 4 hours, pack milk, other dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, gravy, and spoilable leftovers into an insulated cooler surrounded by ice.
  • A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours.
  • Use a digital quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of food. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your refrigerator or freezer is without power for a longer period:

  • Divide your frozen food among friends’ freezers if they have electricity;
  • Seek freezer space in a store, church, school, or commercial freezer that has electrical service; or
  • Use dry ice. 25 pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for 3-4 days. (Exercise care when handling dry ice, because it freezes everything it touches. Wear dry, heavy gloves to avoid injury.)
  • Thawed foods can be eaten or refrozen if they are still "refrigerator cold" (at 40 degrees F or below) or if they still contain ice crystals. If meat, poultry, fish or shellfish have been partially or completely thawed, they should not be refrozen. Fruits and vegetables that are still firm to the touch can be refrozen.

Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture. To be safe, remember, "When in doubt, throw it out."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture operates a food safety hotline which can be reached at 1-888-674-6854 for additional information. See the USDA news release on keeping food safe in an emergency at:

For a list of local health departments and for additional resources on coping with tornadoes and severe storms, go to

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