Maine CDC Press Release

August 31, 2011

Power Outages Could Lead To Foodborne Illness

Lack of refrigeration may lead to spoiled, unsafe food

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention urges a cautious approach to food safety as electrical power is restored in the aftermath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene. With many power outages lasting more than a day, the potential for contaminated food has risen. Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of the Maine CDC believes in the old adage "When in doubt, throw it out."

"If the food has lost refrigeration, looks bad or smells bad, the cautious thing to do is throw that food away," Pinette said. "Eating and drinking contaminated food or beverages can cause foodborne diseases, including diarrheal illness."

Steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family from foodborne infections after the storm include:

  • Throw away foods (including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and leftovers) that have lost refrigeration for two hours or more, including:
    • Foods that have an unusual odor, color, or texture
    • Canned or jarred foods that are bulging or open
  • Throw away foods that may have come in contact with flood or storm water.
  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.
  • Use clean food and water bowls for your pets. Be sure that pets do not drink from flood-contaminated surfaces
  • Always wash your hands with soap and clean water.
  • Hands should be washed:
    • Before preparing or eating food
    • After handling raw or uncooked food
    • After using the bathroom or changing a diaper
    • After playing with a pet,
    • After handling garbage,
    • After tending to someone who is sick or injured,
    • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing,
    • After participating in flood cleanup activities, and handling articles contaminated with flood water or sewage.
Individuals experiencing diarrhea should contact their health care provider. To report diarrheal illness among a group of persons, call the Maine CDC Disease Reporting Hotline at 1-800-821-5821. For more information on hurricane-related safety and prevention visit http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/cdcresponds/index.asp