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Fact Sheet

The USDA recommends keeping hot foods hot (above 150 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). The in-between temperatures are called the "danger zone" because bacteria multiply rapidly within this range, often doubling their numbers every 20 to 30 minutes.

For some people, especially those with weakened immune systems or the elderly, food poisoning can be life threatening. Common sense, good hygiene and preparedness can help. Try these recommendations for keeping food safe.

Among the biggest culprits for food poisoning are potato or egg salad left unrefrigerated for too long or chicken that has not been sufficiently cooked. A cook who does not practice good personal hygiene can also spread the illness-causing bacteria.
 Always wash hands with soap and water before touching and preparing food.
 Make sure your food preparation area is clean.
 Wash can opener before and after use.
 Wash knives and cutting boards in hot, soapy water after preparing food, especially after preparing poultry, which has a high probability of harboring salmonella bacteria. Consider keeping separate cutting boards: one for meat and one for other foods. Use cutting boards made of plastic, acrylic or another surface that can be easily washed. Disinfect cutting boards with a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach to 1 quart of water.
 Do not leave food at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Place it in refrigerator or ice chest promptly.

After a Storm
Tornadoes, floods and thunderstorms can create problems with food and water safety. Power outages are the most common problem facing families during a natural disaster. Food kept in a refrigerator is generally safe as long as the power is not out for more than a few hours. Keep the door closed to keep the cold air inside.

A free-standing freezer will keep food frozen for 1-2 days, depending on how full it is.

If food begins to thaw, it can be refrozen only if ice crystals remain.

Remember, food that has begun to spoil does not necessarily smell or taste bad. When in doubt, throw it out.

If your home has been involved in a tornado or flood, food products and packages may contain small slivers of glass, silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical wastes. Most food products will need to be discarded due to contamination.

Food in sealed, airtight metal cans are safe for use only after the cans have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. Remove paper labels and identify contents using a permanent marker. Do not use cans that are bulging or damaged — throw them away.

Liquids from canned vegetables and fruit can serve as water substitutes for recipes in a pinch.

University of FL Cooperative Extension Service
Christiana Care Health System
University of Minnesota Extension Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.