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September 30, 2003
For immediate release

Chief Health Officer Warns Islanders to Take Precautions During Power Outages

Health and Social Services

Chief Health Officer, Dr. Lamont Sweet, issued a notice today reminding Island residents to take necessary precautions during power outages in order to ensure food safety.

"It is important Islanders know how long food will keep and how to prepare meals to avoid illness, especially during a power outage or emergency situation," said Dr. Sweet. "Other safety considerations should also be followed during the aftermath of the recent hurricane and as we approach winter in Prince Edward Island."

Dr. Sweet reminded Islanders to adhere to the following guidelines:

Freezer and fridge:

Don't open your fridge or freezer unless it is absolutely necessary.

Without power, a full upright or chest freezer will keep food frozen for about two days.

Without power, a fridge should keep food cool for four to six hours.

Discard any thawed food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.

If in doubt throw it out. If it smells or looks bad, don't use it.

Heating and Lights:

Use proper candleholders, never leave candles unattended and keep away from combustible materials.

Don't use charcoal, gas barbeques or home generators indoors. They emit carbon monoxide and should only be used outdoors.

Make sure stove elements and ovens are turned off.

Cooking:

Cook only what is needed for one meal to limit leftovers.

If using baby formula, make only enough for immediate use. Consider powdered formula that will not need refrigeration after opening.

Other Safety Considerations:

1. Avoid all power lines, particularly those in water.

2. Avoid wading in water because broken glass, metal fragments and other debris may be present in the water.

3. Do not siphon gas.

For additional information on food safety, contact the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Health and Social Services at 368-4970 or toll free at 1-800-958-6400.

FOOD SAFETY BACKGROUNDER

Being Prepared:

There are times when it may be possible to anticipate a power outage (warnings of an approaching storm, heavy ice on power lines, etc.). At those times, some preliminary steps may be taken to help keep food longer.

Refrigerators and Freezers:

Turn the refrigerator freezer control to it's coldest setting.

Keep several freezer gel paks frozen in your freezer.

If there is space in your freezer, fill containers such as empty milk cartons with water and freeze. These blocks of ice will help maintain temperatures.

Group foods together in the freezer so that they will protect each other.

Have one or more coolers on hand to store refrigerated foods.

Know where you can obtain block ice for use in your refrigerator.

Develop freezer sharing plans with friends or neighbours.

Keep a list of the foods in your freezer so you know what is in it without opening.

The colder the room, the longer the refrigerator will stay cold.

If there is any possibility of flooding, basement freezers should be raised up off the floor, by putting the unit on cement blocks.

Food:

Stock up on shelf-stable foods that do not require refrigeration. Suggestions:

ready-to-eat canned foods

shelf-stable milk (UHT)

canned fruits and juices

high-energy foods such as peanut butter, trail mix, nuts

Water:

Plan ahead and provide for an emergency water supply about four liters of water per day for each person. Water supplies can be affected by the disruption of power needed to pump water into the home, so it may be necessary to have bottled water available.

Preparing Food:

Wood stoves and fireplaces provide heat sources for cooking. Foods can be cooked on skewers, grilled or wrapped in foil and cooked in the fireplace.

Candle warmers and other devices such as fondue pots may be used for heating food.

Charcoal or gas barbecues or camp stoves can be used outdoors only.

To Save or Discard:

A thermometer placed in your refrigerator or freezer will show you how cold the food has remained during the power outage and is the safest way to determine if the food can be saved.

The following are often implicated with food-borne illness and should be discarded if stored above 4 C (40 F) for two hours or more:

raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood and luncheon meats

casseroles, stews or soups

milk and soft cheeses

homemade mayonnaise or dressings

cooked pasta, potatoes or rice

salads made with any of these foods

Food that can be stored above 4 C (40 F) for several days include:

butter and margarine

hard or processed cheese

fresh fruits and vegetables

mustard, ketchup, olives

salad dressings, peanut butter, barbeque sauce

jam and jellies

Frozen Foods:

Frozen foods in a fully-stocked chest or upright freezer will stay frozen up to 2 days, in a half-filled freezer for about one day. If the power is expected to be off for several days, it is safer to move the food to another freezer. If moving frozen foods, wrap in newspapers and place in insulated coolers. Covering the freezer with blankets or quilts will also help keep it cold.

Keep raw meats wrapped and take care that their juices do not drip on cooked or other ready-to-eat foods.

IF IN DOUBT, TOSS IT OUT

To Save or Discard:

Food that has thawed but is still cold or feels cold as if refrigerated (that is 4 C (40 F) or below) may be refrozen. Raw meat or poultry should first be cooked before freezing.

Discard any foods where the temperature has been over 4 C (40 F) for longer than two hours.

Fish and shellfish should not be refrozen if they have completely thawed.

Frozen dinners, desserts and ice cream should not be refrozen.

Prepared foods may be refrozen but should be marked so they can be used as soon as possible.

For additional information on food safety, contact the Environmental Health Division of the Department of Health and Social Services at 368-4970 or toll free at 1-800-958-6400.

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Media Contact: Connie McNeill
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