When it comes to death during times of emergency or wars by far the majority of them are caused by disease and unsanitary conditions. So when the zombies come you’re biggest danger won’t necessarily come from the walking dead, instead it will come from your attempts to stay alive. Food borne illnesses account for 13,360 illnesses, 1,062 hospitalizations, 16 deaths, and 14 food recalls according to the CDC.
And that’s in the best of times.
Now imagine when the power is out. When the zombies are out there. When you’re dealing with all manner of emergency situations. Just imagine how bad things could get! Following some of these basic food safety protocols will be huge.
On our zombie team this is pretty much my main contribution. My time spent in the military was spent dealing with these main topics, I’ve even got one of my degrees in hospitality/food management. I’m Servsafe certified. Spent way to many years working in various kitchens. And like to stay up to date on the latest food safety information.
Dustin does security. I feed us. Both essential for keeping our loved ones alive. Plus, I’ve got cookies. I highly recommend if you’re interested in these topics to look into getting Servsafe certified, or at least pick up a copy of the textbook. It’s a great resource to keep on hand in your survival library. And if you have any interest in working with food it’s a great resume builder.
Get a Good Thermometer
There are some very important temperatures that you’ve got to keep in mind when it come to food safety. Bacteria and food borne pathogens thrive at different temperatures, and especially when you’re dealing with meat it is important that you’re food reach a safe internal temperature before eating it.
This is one of those areas that have changed slightly over my years, a few safe temparatures have gone down over time, particularly poultry. These temperatures are the minimum safety guidelines, they do not take into consideration the prefered doneness of the meat.
I prefer a non-digital thermometer just because I don’t have to worry about batteries or anything like that, I can take it camping with us, throw one in a 72 hour bag, etc. But a good digital one wouldn’t be a bad investment. Especially if it’s going to be kept at home.
Rules of Food Storage
When it comes to food storage the most important thing that you need to remember is First In, First Out. Also known as FIFO. This is a rotation method that ensures your food is eaten before it goest bad. When stocking your shelves put the newer items to the back so that older items get eaten first.
This counts for all food you store, dry goods, canned goods, frozen, etc. First In. First Out. Easy peasy. When it comes to commercially canned items you can use cool racks like this to keep it easy. I date everything in our storage so that I make sure I am using the older items first. I keep a couple Sharpies in the kitchen so that I never forget to date and label items.
With your storage you also want to make sure everything is staying at the right temperatures. There are three types of food storage; refrigerated, frozen, and dry storage. Each has their own rules.
This is where you’ll keep your canned goods and dry items. You’ll want to keep it away from trash and keep everything off the ground, at least 6 inches. Make sure this area is well ventilated kept clean. Temperature should be kept between 50-70 degrees and make sure food is kept out of direct sunlight.
I loved canned goods, both home canned and commercial. We live with limited freezer space and having shelf stable options on hand is great for quick meals. With canned goods there are some specific rules you need to keep in mind.
High acid canned goods will not last as long as low acid. You need to discard damaged or bulging cans immediately as that’s a sign of bacteria growth. And keep cans cleaned. I wash each home canned item before putting them in storage. I also regularly wipe them down to keep dust and dirt from covering them.
Make sure dry storage items are kept in airtight containers and check regularly for damage from insects or rodents. Some items like sugar, salt, and pure honey can be kept in storage indefinitely.
If you’re keeping food in cold storage there are some very important things you need to do, otherwise you’re better off throwing it away. Storage that is not kept at proper temperatures can cause all kinds of nasty contamination. Make sure your cold storage is holding food at a temperature of 41 degrees or lower. Anything above this is considered the danger zone and optimum temperature for bacteria growth.
Do not overfill your cold storage as this will make it hard to maintain temperatures. Good airflow is important for maintianing temperatures and cleanliness. Keep a thermometor in your cold storage to make sure the temperature is safe and randomly check the internal temperature of your food to make sure it’s staying cold enough.
When storing items in cold storage a couple things are important to remember. First, never ever under any circumstances store raw meat over anything else. Raw meat always goes on the bottom to prevent cross contamination. Make sure your food is all properly wrapped and sealed. This prevents contamination and also flavor loss. Lastly, refrain from opening your cold storage too often.
The rules of frozen storage are similar to cold storage. Make sure you are checking your temperature regularly. Never hold frozen items at room temperature longer than needed. And while you can store commercially processed and packed raw meat over ready to eat items if they’re all frozen I still prefer to keep raw meat on the bottom. It’s a good practice to remember.
Label items when they’ve gone into the freezer and also be sure to label what items are! Nothing worse than grabbing the wrong items out freezer because you can’t tell the difference! Also defrost your freezer regularly to keep it efficient.
Handwashing vs Gloves
When you are dealing food your hands are obviously very important. You’ll have to choose between handwashing and gloves and this is a bit of a personal pet peeve of mine. Too often I see people treat gloves like they are magic. I do love gloves when I’m dealing with particularly messy foods or cutting peppers. But otherwise I’m happy with good old fashioned hand washing.
When you’re handling food you will want to wash your hands after you use the restroom, touch any meat, touch your face/hair/body, sneeze/cough/use a tissure, smoke/eat/drink, tough any chemicals, take out the garbage, clear dirty dishes, or touch any other dirty equipment/work surfaces.
If you’re using gloves you will need to change gloves in any of those same circumstances!! Proper hand washing procedures take a minimum of 20 seconds. Use water that is a hot as you can stand (at least 100 degrees) apply soap, vigorously scrub for 10-15 seconds, rinse thoroughly.
These are just a few very important tips for safe food handling that you can use before, during, and after an emergency situation. Keeping your food secure and safe will keep you and your family safe. I’ll have some more tips next week regarding sanitation and food safety that are particularly important if you’re not cooking in your own kitchen!
If the zombie apocalypse comes don’t put your family in added danger by killing them with their food. Being slowed down by food poisoning will definitely not help you out run the zombies!!