Food safety emergency preparedness for families

Guidelines for keeping an emergency food supply in case of a disaster.

You may not know when a disaster will strike, but keeping an emergency food supply will help you and your family be better prepared in the situation. Preparing your household through self-confidence based on knowledge, preparation and practice can give your family a better chance for recovery during an emergency. Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere and sometimes without warning. Having an emergency food supply will mean you will not go hungry when transportation, weather, health, power outage or other problems prevent you from getting your usual grocery supplies.

The American Red Cross recommends keeping a three-day emergency food supply. Emergency foods are to be kept separate from regular groceries, so to be available when needed.  An emergency food supply should be kept in a convenient location:A clean, cool environment, away from extreme heat or cold.  Extremely hot (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and freezing temperatures are harmful to canned goods.

Michigan State University Extension recommends selecting non-perishable foods, those that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking. Date the foods as you buy them. Never eat foods from leaking, rusty, bulging or badly dented cans. Throw out jars that are cracked or with loose or bulging lids. Once seals have been broken oxygen can enter and cause contamination. Never taste foods from cans that have broken seals or bulging lids.

Consider storing foods that can be eaten cold, such as small cans of fruit, juice boxes, cans of tuna or other canned meats, pudding cups, peanut butter, crackers and non-fat dry milk. Make sure you have a manual can opener, eating utensils and disposable dishes.

Follow the “use by” dates and replace with new groceries. Low-acid canned goods (meats, poultry, stew, soups, beans, carrots, corn, etc.) will last two to five years, unopened. High-acid canned goods (fruits, juices, pickles, tomato soup, etc.) will last 12-18 months, unopened.  

Store at least one gallon of water per person, per day. This is the minimum amount a person will need for drinking, cooking and brushing teeth. Keep at least a three day supply of clean water on hand per person. To ensure quality, replace stored water twice a year.

Being prepared for an emergency will make your family better able to weather any storm that comes your way. Rather than this experience being a crisis, your family will have all their basic needs met until every day services are restored.

Source: The Food Keeper, Food Marketing Institute. MSU Extension Bulletin WO1029.

To contact an expert in your area, visit or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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