Guest Blog from Deb Moller
Making sure they have food is what most people think of first when it comes to disaster planning. Yet most healthy adults can live up to three weeks with hardly any food at all. Earlier generations survived frequent famines, and while times of extreme hunger were hated and feared, the result is that our bodies are exquisitely adapting to surviving with little or no food.
But hunger robs people of energy, the ability to think clearly, and any sense of well-being. It makes joints ache and muscles cramp. The determination to stockpile food at the first sign of trouble seems to reflect an awareness that hunger carries with it a high cost in suffering. . .
Making sure you have food in the case of a disaster is important. Making sure your food is safe is critical. Most of the invisible food safety risks – when it looks, smells, and tastes perfectly fine and still causes serious illness – come when contamination from bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella is introduced in processing or preparing the food. If you purchase high quality foods from reputable brands for your emergency food storage, you will minimize the risk of pre-delivery contamination. After that, scrupulous attention to cleanliness while preparing food will reduce risks of contamination.
We do have a serious problem with food safety in the United States. It isn’t that our food is dangerous; most often it’s fine. The problem is consumers think the dates on food packages and cans mean the contents are unsafe once the date has passed. Nearly all the dates are provided by the manufacturer and reflect how long the food maintains peak quality; they have nothing to do with safety. The federally mandated safe-by dates on infant formula and baby foods are the only exception; state mandates vary widely.
Most of us have heard the wise guideline “when in doubt, throw it out.” That’s excellent safety advice for food that must be refrigerated or frozen and a power outage means it has not been kept at the proper temperature. But it’s terrible advice if you are making your decision based on the manufacturer’s quality pull date on canned goods. Confusion about what the dates mean results in an astonishing amount of perfectly safe food being wasted every year!
In developing your plans for short-and long-term food storage, it’s important to understand the difference between food quality and food safety. Commercially canned foods, for example, are safe to eat long after the pull date on the can, even if the quality may be reduced.
High-acid foods, like canned tomatoes, will begin to deteriorate more quickly than low-acid canned meat and vegetables. Even so, the head of the Canned Food Alliance notes that canned food kept at temperatures below 75 degree F may last indefinitely.
So if you are sitting in the dark after a disaster, with only a can of beans that “expired” in 2018 to eat, what should you do? As long as the can is entirely intact, the lid opens with a healthy whoosh of air and the contents look, taste and smell fine, you are likely much safer eating the beans than you would be risking the side-effects of hunger. Remember – quality and safety are not the same!
Redfora has you and your family covered for any emergency with their tasty ready made meals that are sealed for safety and have a shelf life of up to 30 years. No matter what life throws your way, you can expect these meals to taste fresh and delicious when you need them most.
Meet the Author: Deb Moller
Deb Moller is the former public-private partnerships manager at the Oregon Office of Emergency Management. She is a senior fellow at the Center of Excellence, Homeland Security -Emergency Management under the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. This is adapted from her book “Get Ready! How to Prepare for and Stay Safe After a Pacific Northwest Earthquake.”
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