Emergency Food Supply

Emergency Food Safety Dont Make These Common Mistakes That Could Cost You Your Life


Food safety is a critical matter, not to be overlooked. In an emergency, the seemingly basic tasks of storing, prepping, and consuming food could be life-threatening. Knowing the steps to take is your safest option.

This guide will explain the basic principles of food safety that should be kept in mind during an emergency, as well as the common errors people make when it comes to handling food in a crisis. Taking the right precautions and educating yourself about proper food handling practices will guarantee your next emergency experience is not hazardous to your health or safety.

Common Mistakes

Food safety during an emergency? Must know! Mistakes made? Not a chance! Here's the 411 on mistake avoidance. Common errors happen when prepping and storing food during an emergency. Major health risk? Yes, if not done properly. So, let's discuss how to avoid these mistakes. Plus, get some tips and tricks to keep you safe. Food storage and prep: the key to a healthy future!

Let's discuss how to avoid common mistakes when prepping and storing food during an emergency:

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  • Tip 5

Not checking expiration dates

Food safety is a major part of any plan. Many forget to check expiry dates, which means missing out on the freshest and safest foods. Every food item has an expiry date; canned, bulk, pre-packaged, frozen, and fresh. Check these dates to make sure the food is safe to eat.

If the expiry date has passed on a canned product, don't consume it, even if it looks okay. Opening it may reveal discoloration or off odors which indicate spoilage. Most fresh produce have short shelf lives, so discard them if they pass the expiry date. Bacterial infection can form during storage, so keep your emergency stores up to date with frequently checked expiration dates!

Not properly storing food

Food storage is a must for any emergency situation. Incorrect storage can lead to bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Not sealing containers tightly – Make sure all stored foods are in closed containers that keep out moisture and air.
  • Not cooling food fast – Leftovers should be cooled quickly by placing them in shallow containers and refrigerating them within two hours.
  • Not using a cooler – When taking meals outside during an emergency, pack a cooler with ice packs to keep temperatures below 40°F.
  • Allowing too much time between meals – Eat meals shortly after preparation or opening. Max three days between meals. This will avoid contaminants and spoiled food.

Not following cooking instructions

When cooking unfamiliar foods like freeze-dried or pressure-cooked, it's essential to read and obey the instructions. Ignoring these can result in food poisoning or other illnesses.

Avoid the following mistakes:

  • Don't leave out ingredients or use subs. Recipes require specific ingredients for safety and tastiness.
  • Don't overcook. Doing this results in dry, flavorless food, while undercooking can lead to bacteria.
  • Keep clean to prevent contamination. Utensils, boards, and hands must be clean when handling food.
  • Store safely. Foods must never be stored above recommended temperatures before or after cooking. Use proper packaging.

If you have any questions about food safety, talk to your emergency management office instead of family members or online sources.

Not washing hands before handling food

Wash your hands before preparing or eating! Hot water and soap are key. 20 seconds is all it takes. Wash the palms, back of hands, fingertips, thumbs and in between the fingers. This helps keep bacteria away from raw food, like salmonella.

Remember to wash your hands after handling raw meat or eggs. Also after going to the bathroom, touching animals, outdoor surfaces like grass, plants, or soil. Restaurants should have sinks for washing hands in convenient locations.

Hand-washing can save lives. Studies show that Salmonella infections could be reduced by 40% with better hand-washing in households and other food handling areas. Not washing your hands can cause serious health issues and, even, cost you your life.

Tips for Safe Food Storage

Storing food properly is key to food safety in an emergency. Although it may seem like hard work, it's crucial to make sure your food is safe to consume. Here we will discuss tips for safe storage. This way, you can prevent costly mistakes that could cost you your life!

Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours

Remember to refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of cooking, purchasing, or harvesting. Leaving food at room temperature for long can lead to bacterial growth. To avoid any accidents, keep these items between 40°F–140°F (4.4°C-60°C).

In cooler climates, this two hour period can be extended. Still, it's best to refrigerate items quickly after purchase or preparation for safety. Especially if the item has been cooked, since bacteria grows faster when heated up.

Refrigeration also slows mold growth and prevents spoilage. Additionally, it keeps contaminants from entering perishable items if stored correctly, with sealed containers or wrapped foods.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold

Food safety pros advise hot food to be kept hot and cold food to be kept cold, to stop bacteria growth. To keep your food safe from foodborne illnesses, follow these tips when prepping, serving, and storing food:

  • Hot food needs to be kept at a temperature of 140°F or higher. Use a slow cooker or warming tray to store leftovers at the right temp.
  • Cold food should stay at 40°F or lower. Set your refrigerator to 40°F or less, and use an insulated cooler with ice packs for food on the go.
  • Don't overstock your fridge or freezer – too much food will stop air circulation and cause uneven cooling.
  • Quickly refrigerate hot food, but put it in shallow pans, not a pool of water, so it won't get soggy.
  • Label refrigerated cooked leftovers and throw away any that are more than 4 days old.

Store food in airtight containers

It's important to store emergency food in airtight containers. This reduces oxygen, which stops growth of aerobic bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms. Moisture is also kept out. Properly sealed containers prevent insects and microbial spores.

Specialized packaging is great for large amounts of food. Metal cans are rigid and can withstand temperature changes; they also provide metal-to-metal sealing, which stops fungi and microorganism contamination. Mylar or heavy plastic bags with an oxygen absorber offer great protection against odors. They are bug and pest proof too.

Use separate cutting boards for raw and cooked food

When storing food, it is vital to use different cutting boards for raw and cooked food. This helps avoid cross-contamination. Also, use clean utensils and dishes when you handle food. Bacteria from raw food can spread to cooked food if the same tools are used for both.

Often, those who store emergency food forget to use separate cutting boards and utensils. Unchecked, bacteria from raw ingredients can contaminate cooked items. There is no way to make it safe without re-cooking the meal. Cross contamination can happen even with minimal contact between different types of food.

Be aware of using separate cutting boards and utensils. This will keep your meal items safe from bacteria and fit for consumption in any situation.

Tips for Safe Cooking

Cooking is essential. But, when it comes to emergency food safety, you must be careful. People often make mistakes with food safety in an emergency that can be fatal.

Here are tips for safe cooking and how to avoid these errors. Read on!

Cook food to the proper temperature

Cooking food properly is crucial to prevent life-threatening foodborne illnesses. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests using a food thermometer to make sure all cooked food reaches the safe internal temperature.

For meat and poultry, the recommended temperatures are:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, veal: 145°F (62.8 °C) with a three-minute rest time.
  • Poultry: 165°F (73.9 °C).
  • Ground turkey & chicken: 165 °F (73.9 °C).
  • Seafood, poultry, or other meat stuffing: 165 °F (73.9 °C).

When reheating cooked foods, make sure they hit an internal temperature of 165°F (73.9 °C) to avoid bacteria formation. When using a food thermometer, avoid touching any bone, fat or gristle for an accurate reading, as undercooking can occur.

Use a food thermometer

Using a food thermometer is the best way to make sure your food is cooked properly. It's also important to use it correctly. Here are some tips:

  • Always check the inside temperature of cooked food with a clean thermometer.
  • Put the tip into the thickest part, avoiding bones, fat, and gristle.
  • Let it sit for 15 seconds before checking the temperature.
  • Take a reading within one minute when using digital or instant read thermometers.
  • Clean and sanitize the thermometer after each use.
    • Immersing it in boiling water for one minute or wiping down with alcohol based sanitizer (if recommended) works well.
  • Remember to remove stem from heat source before and after each use.
  • Experts recommend checking temperatures of large cuts, steaks, and poultry during and at end of cooking. This helps reduce risk of contamination.

Avoid cross-contamination

Cross contamination is a hazard. It can cause food-borne illnesses. Bacteria can transfer from one surface or food item to another. This happens through hands, surfaces, equipment, and utensils.

To stop cross-contamination, do these things:

  • Clean surfaces and equipment after each use with hot soapy water (or bleach solutions). Wipe off the solution with a dry cloth or paper towel.
  • Wash hands before and after handling food. Especially when switching between raw foods and fruits/veggies.
  • Don't use the same plate for cooked and raw foods without washing it. Same for knives.
  • Have separate cutting boards for different types of foods. Rotate them often.
  • Store perishable items in the fridge. Don't leave them out at room temp.
  • When reheating leftovers, make sure they reach an even internal temperature. Some bacteria may survive low temps.


Emergency food supply situations differ, yet the main principles of food safety still remain. Temperature must be closely monitored. Eat potentially bad food quickly and correctly. Store foods in airtight, dry containers.

By following these basic principles for food safety and having a plan in place for emergency food storage, you can trust that your body will stay healthy and strong during crises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some common mistakes with emergency food safety?

A: Some of the most common mistakes with emergency food safety include not following safe food handling and preparation practices, not properly storing food, not using fresh food and ingredients, and not having access to clean water.

Q: What are some tips for emergency food safety?

A: Some tips for emergency food safety include keeping food at safe temperatures, washing hands before and after handling food, storing food in sealed containers, and cleaning and sanitizing utensils, surfaces, and other items used for food preparation.

Q: How can I make sure my food is safe in an emergency?

A: To make sure your food is safe in an emergency, make sure to follow safe food handling and preparation practices, store food properly, use fresh food and ingredients, and have access to clean water.

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