Most Americans are not prepared to ensure food safety during power outages and other emergencies
Natural disasters and other emergencies can endanger food safety and increase the risk of foodborne illness. We conducted a nationally representative Web-enabled survey (n = 1,011) to understand consumers’ knowledge and use of recommended practices during extended power outages and other emergencies. Only 15% of respondents reported they are fully prepared to keep food safe during an extended power outage. Of those respondents who had experienced a recent power outage, 37% discarded frozen foods that had thawed, 31% discarded refrigerated perishable foods, and 15% stored food directly in snow/cold weather, a potentially unsafe practice. Additionally, 65% of respondents smelled food to determine whether it was safe to eat, another potentially unsafe practice. Only 33% of survey respondents knew to discard refrigerated perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, milk, eggs, and deli items, after 4 hours without power, and 60% knew to discard frozen food that had partially or completely thawed before power is restored unless it contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below. Americans are not prepared to ensure food safety during extended power outages and other emergencies despite widely available information on emergency preparedness and response. Educational materials need to address barriers and misconceptions and target specifi c practices and demographic groups.