Tag Archives: food waste

Food Safety During and After a Storm

USDA Offers Food Safety Tips for Areas Affected by Hurricane Dorian

When hurricanes such as Dorian have significant impact on a state or region, they present the possibility of power outages and flooding that can compromise the safety of stored food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has issued food safety recommendations for those who may be impacted by Hurricane Dorian. FSIS recommends consumers take the following steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during this and other severe weather events.

Steps to follow in advance of losing power:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a hurricane. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

Food safety after a flood:

  • Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water—this would include raw fruits and vegetables, cartons of milk or eggs.
  • Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those packaged in plastic wrap or cardboard, or those with screw‐caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps. Flood waters can enter into any of these containers and contaminate the food inside. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
  • Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel‐type can opener.

FSIS will provide relevant food safety information as the storm progresses on Twitter @USDAFoodSafety and Facebook.

FSIS’ YouTube video “Food Safety During Power Outages” has instructions for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe. The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” can be downloaded and printed for reference during a power outage.

If you have questions about food safety during severe weather, or any other food safety topics, call the USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888MPHotline or chat live with a food safety specialist at AskKaren.gov. These services are available in English and Spanish from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Answers to frequently asked question can also be found 24/7 at AskKaren.gov.

Understanding Date Labels on Packaged Foods to Reduce Food Waste

What does the label “Best If Used By” when purchasing foods and beverages actually mean?  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) want you to know the facts before you throw your items away.

  • “Best if Used By” labeling is standardized to provide a date that is related to optimal quality – not safety. This tells consumers that certain products do not have to be discarded after the date if they are stored properly.
  • An “expiration date” is only used for baby formula. This is the only date label that is federally required.
  • Date labels are created by manufacturers at their own discretion. The main reason for this is to notify consumers and retailers of the date where they can expect the food to retain its desired quality and flavor.
  • The FDA advises consumers to routinely examine foods in their kitchen cabinets or pantry that are past the “Best if Used By” date to determine if the quality is sufficient for use. If the products have changed noticeably in color, consistency or texture, or smell, consumers may want to avoid eating them.
  • Reduce food waste by refrigerating peeled or cut vegetables for freshness, quality or safety. Store foods in the freezer to retain quality.  Avoid bulk and impulse purchases, especially of produce and dairy products that have a limited shelf life.  Request smaller portions when eating out.  Bring your leftovers home, and refrigerate/freeze them within two hours.

Between the food industry and consumers, Americans throw out about a third of our food – approximately $161 billion worth each year.  For more tips to reduce food waste, visit:  https://www.fda.gov/food/consumers/tips-reduce-food-waste.

Don't Waste Food SC_0

Don’t Waste Food SC is a collaborative outreach campaign that focuses on bringing together every individual and organization in South Carolina to prevent, donate or compost extra food rather than wasting it. Initially a partnership of the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and S.C. Department of Commerce, ambassadors now include K-12 schools, businesses, food retailers and manufacturers, non-profit organizations, municipalities and local governments, colleges/universities, residents, restaurants and hospitality establishments as well as many others. For more information or to get involved, please visit Don’t Waste Food SC or email dontwastefoodsc@dhec.sc.gov.

Download the rack card specifically addressing product labeling as an easy reference tool.

This Earth Day, Let’s Tackle Food Waste Together

By: Bureau of Environmental Health Services

When people think about Earth Day, some of the things that come to mind are recycling, planting trees, and reducing pollution.  Consider food safety and the reduction of food waste in this conversation. With 40% of all food in the United States being wasted every year, it is easy to see that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  These food habits lead to massive amounts of money wasted and environmental degradation – even though in South Carolina alone, 1 in 7 people, including 1 in 5 children, struggle with hunger according to Feeding America.  Fortunately, this is a challenge that can be addressed both individually and systemically.

You Can End Food Waste! It Starts at Home 

A couple of strategies for individual food waste management:

1).  Purchase only what you know you’re going to eat. When our refrigerators become overpacked, air is unable to properly circulate, and proper temperatures of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit cannot be maintained. This results in food going bad and needing to be thrown out and energy being wasted through a constantly running refrigerator.  In case you need a good visual of the journey of bringing food to our tables, watch “The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry” put on by the Save the Food campaign and Ad Council.

2).  Regularly monitoring refrigerator temperature is an effective way to ensure your food isn’t going bad.

3).  Learn about date labels. Date labels, such as “best by” and “use by,” most often refer to quality. Even though a date label has been exceeded, a food product is not necessarily unsafe.

To find tips and tricks for storing and preparing your food visit:  https://savethefood.com/storage and https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/index.html.

4).  Practice portion control and keep your leftovers.  By doing this, you can end up reducing your “waist” with both your body and food.  Whether you are eating out at a restaurant or have over prepared a meal at home, have a storage container on hand to have a tasty snack later in the day or week.

5).  Donate! Food banks and local food drives are always looking for more items. Since roughly 25% of all food and beverages purchased by families in the United States end up in the trash, there is an abundance of food being wasted that could be used to feed those in need. To learn more about where to donate food, you can visit: https://feedingthecarolinas.org/.

For additional tips on how to reduce your food waste at home, DHEC’s Guide for Reducing Food Waste at Home is an amazing resource!

Addressing the Systemic Causes of Food Waste

As a community, the most effective way to make sure food waste stops before it starts is to support local and national food waste reduction initiatives. There are no national regulations directing consistent food date labeling.  With 17% of restaurant meals going uneaten and 55% of leftovers not even being taken home, oversized portions are serious contributors to food waste and any comprehensive food waste program should take this into consideration. If your household or business is interested in addressing the issue of food waste, consider becoming a Don’t Waste Food SC Food Ambassador. DHEC has created a toolkit to get you started.

Do Your Part This Earth Day

Failure to manage food waste can lead to increased pollution.  Food waste ends up in landfills and food decomposition adds to the pollution generated at those sites.  Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  You can help decrease those emissions by turning wasted food into compost or donating it to local food banks, food rescue organizations, and other non-profits.  This Earth Day do your part to reduce your personal food waste and spread the word about this increasingly important issue. Not only will you help protect the Earth that all of us share, you will save some money while you do it! For more information on how you can help tackle the problem of food waste, you can visit Don’t Waste Food SC!

 

What Will You Do With Your Thanksgiving Leftovers? Please Don’t Waste Food.

By Adrianna Bradley

Don’t toss your Thanksgiving leftovers!

Food waste is the No. 1 item thrown away by Americans, accounting for 21.6 percent of the nation’s waste in 2014, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  South Carolina produced over 600, 000 tons of food waste in fiscal year (FY) 2016 (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016).

This Thanksgiving we want you to join the fight to cut down on food waste in our state. If you’ve tired yourself out from creating new recipes with your Turkey Day leftovers, try feeding people instead of our landfills. In case you didn’t know, one in eight Americans struggle with hunger — including nearly 800,000 South Carolinians — according to Feeding America. Food donation is a great way to provide surplus food to those who need it while recycling your Thanksgiving leftovers. Besides, isn’t this time of year also the season for giving?

If you cannot donate or reuse your leftover, try composting it. Sending food waste to a composting facility or composting at home can improve soil health and structure, increase water retention, support native plants and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

As you can see, there are several options to avoid sending things to our state’s landfills. It’s important that we Don’t Waste Food SC.

This week at DHEC

Highlights from this week at DHEC:

Don’t Waste Food

Richard Chesley interviewed with ABC Columbia about our Don’t Waste Food S.C. campaign. Richard pointed out that 38.4 million tons of food are simply thrown away in the United States every year.  To put it another way, 40% of all food processed is simply tossed in the circular file.

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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

nbhaad-facebook-infographic-1200x1200In observance of  National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7th, we worked with community-based organizations to offer free HIV testing testing events across South Carolina. More than 12,600 African-Americans in our state are living with HIV/AIDS, and thousands more haven’t been tested. For more information about the fight against AIDS in South Carolina, including local HIV testing sites, call DHEC’s AIDS/STD Hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS (1-800-322-2437), or visit http://www.scdhec.gov/stdhiv .

Gold Star Honor for Tobacco-Free Efforts

teamphotoThis week DHEC was recognized by the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Working Well initiative and Prevention Partners for achieving the highest standard of tobacco-free excellence.

Jen Wright of Working Well visited DHEC to present Director Catherine Heigel and members of our Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control and Worksite Wellness team the Gold Star award for creating a tobacco-free workplace and providing high-quality tobacco cessation programs for employees..

In order for an organization to receive this recognition, it must have a tobacco-free worksite policy, refer its employees to effective quit programs and counseling, provide comprehensive cessation benefits (nicotine replacement therapy and prescription medications) and offer incentives to encourage employees to quit tobacco. These are among several evidence-based components recommended by Working Well and Prevention Partners for comprehensive quit-tobacco systems at worksites.