by Roselyn Biermaier,
University of Minnesota Extension Service
During an emergency, cooking and eating habits must change to fit the situation. You may not have a refrigerator or a stove, and your water supply may be limited. In addition, health risks from contaminated or spoiled food may increase.
Any food that has been contaminated or come in contact with water, sewage, smoke, fumes or chemicals needs to be discarded. Here's list of foods to be discarded from the Advanced Practice Centers:
Fresh perishables such as produce, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs
Opened containers and packages of food
Vulnerable containers with peel-off, waxed cardboard, cork or screw tops; and plastic containers of catsup, dressing, milk, mayonnaise, pop, etc.
Soft, porous packages of food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, plastic, and cellophane. Examples are boxes or bags of cereal, flour, sugar, rice and salt.
Dry goods such as spices, seasonings and other staples in canisters
You can salvage (after they're disinfected) undamaged cans and bottles that have no heat or water damage and are free from dents, bulging, leaks or rust. To prevent the contents from being contaminated, follow these steps:
Remove paper labels and immediately re-label with a permanent marker
Wash cans and bottles with soap and water
Rinse in clear water
Dip in bleach solution for 30 seconds (1 capful of bleach to a gallon of water)
Let air dry
If there's limited fuel for cooking, either choose food that cooks quickly, or serve no-cook food. Prepare only the amount of food you need for one meal. When left at room temperature, milk, soups, pasta, legumes and vegetables provide excellent conditions for food poisoning. Discard any extra canned food that has been opened. Discard any leftovers, or place in a cooler with ice for no more than 24 hours.
Here are a few cooking methods to consider, but be aware of the safety concerns.
Camp stoves: Use them only outside the house or garage. Propane and butane fires are difficult to extinguish and could easily get out of hand. A dry chemical extinguisher puts out gasoline or oil fires, but not butane or propane fires. There is little you can do to put out a propane or butane fire except shut off the gas. Know where the shut-off valve is before lighting any propane or butane device.
Gas or charcoal grills: Never use grills indoors or in a garage. Inadequate ventilation makes indoor cooking with gas or charcoal dangerous. Use grills at least 10 feet away from any building. You can use grills to cook meats and vegetables in foil and prepare one-pot meals.
Fondue pots: They can easily be used for meat, cheeses or even chocolate. You can use them inside as long as the fuel heating them is approved for indoor use.
(Roselyn Biermaier is a food science educator with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Regional Center, Marshall)