Food Safety During a Hurricane

When a hurricane is on the horizon, the primary concern is always safety — sheltering from high winds, avoiding floods, preparing your home, and ensuring you have enough supplies. Amidst the chaos, it’s easy to overlook a critical aspect: food safety. Keeping your food safe during a hurricane is essential to prevent foodborne illnesses when access to medical care may be limited or difficult to attain. Food dangers during a hurricane may not be something you know a lot about, but fear not, Heritage Insurance is here to guide you in the right direction. 

Before the StormFull refrigerator open

Preparing before a storm hits is vital to successfully surviving a hurricane. Power outages for extended periods are a common occurrence both during and after a hurricane, so proper preparation for such an instance is paramount. Check and replenish your supplies to weather potential power disruptions. Start by organizing your refrigerator and freezer, maximizing space, and ensuring perishable items are kept cold for as long as possible in the event of a power outage. Freeze containers of water to fill up any extra space; this helps keep the food cold longer if the power goes out. Group food together in the freezer to help it stay cold longer if power is interrupted. Consider freezing perishable items that you may not need immediately.

Check Your Supplies

Ensure you have a manual can opener, as electric ones won’t be useful during a power outage. Stock up on bottled water since tap water may become unsafe to drink during a hurricane. Have coolers and ice pack ready for items that need to be chilled. Paper and plastic dishes and utensils can come in handy when no cleaning water is available. 

Stock Up on Non-Perishable Foods

Non-perishable food items do not require refrigeration and have a long shelf life, making them perfect for emergency situations. Canned goods and ready-to-eat items should be your go-to options. 

Here is a list of common non-perishable food items: 

  • Canned fruit 
  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned meats
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts
  • Peanut/almond butter
  • Shelf-stable milk/milk alternative
  • Instant coffee
  • Tea
  • Crackers
  • Cereals
  • Granola bars
  • Protein bars

canned foods


During the Storm

During a hurricane, essential practices to prevent foodborne illness include keeping refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain freshness, preparing coolers and ice packs for extended power outages, and understanding the food ‘danger zone’ where bacteria can rapidly multiply. Keep the refrigerator and freezer does closed unless you have to remove something. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer will maintain its temperature for about two days. If you anticipate extended power outages, prepare coolers and ice packs to keep perishable food items cold after the refrigerator and freezer are no longer able to maintain their normal temperatures. Freeze containers of water to create ice blocks; these can be put in your refrigerator as soon as the power goes out to help extend the cool temperatures. Use insulated coolers and pack them tightly with ice or frozen gel packs. Prioritize high-risk items like dairy, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers in the cooler. 

The Food ‘Danger Zone’

thermometerThe “danger zone” for food is between 40°F and 140°F. where bacteria can rapidly multiply. Keeping your food out of this temperature range is crucial to prevent foodborne illnesses. Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to check if food items are safe to consume after a power outage. When the power returns, check the freezer thermometer; if it is below 40°F, the food is safe and may be refrozen. Refrigerated foods should be kept at or below 40°F, and frozen foods should be kept at or below 0°F. If the temperature rises above these levels, the food is no longer safe to consume.


After the Storm

In the aftermath of a hurricane, ensuring the safety of your food is crucial, especially during power outages. Check for damaged cans, ensure drinking, cooking, and cleaning water is clean, and verify foods are free from dangerous bacteria to prevent foodborne illness. Inspect canned foods for any signs of damage like rust, dents, or bulging; if a can is compromised, throw it away to avoid the risk of contamination. Discard any perishable foods that have been warmer than 40°F for more than two hours. Dispose of any food with an unusual odor, color, or texture. Trust your senses of sight, small, and taste to detect any signs of spoilage. When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and discard any questionable food items. 

soda can in water

Be Cautious of Flood Waters

Any food that has encountered floodwaters should be discarded immediately, including cardboard boxes, plastic bags, home-canned goods, and even unopened jars. Floodwater can contaminate food with bacteria, microbial growth, chemicals, and other pollutants. If your water supply has been compromised, boil water for at least one minute before using it for drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth. Sanitize cooking equipment thoroughly if it has been exposed to floodwaters. If you suspect you have consumed contaminated food or water and experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or fever, seek medical attention promptly. 


In the event of a hurricane or other major storm, food safety might not be your first concern, but it’s a crucial aspect of ensuring overall safety and well-being. By preparing in advance, maintaining vigilance during the storm, and carefully assessing the safety of your food supplies afterward, you can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and keep your family safe during challenging times. Remember, when it comes to food safety during a hurricane, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Stay safe and stay prepared!