As Hurricane Irene was making its way up the East Coast to NYC last weekend, I received emails from Brooklyn and Queens clients trying to get organized for the oncoming storm who wondered if I knew how long canned goods were safe to ingest. Apparently, both of these clients had an emergency supply they had bought so long ago in anticipation of weather events that might cause power outages that they couldn’t remember how long it had been. Just to be on the safe side – though I assumed they already had – I replied that most canned goods had expiration dates on them so they should check the label, the lid or the bottom of the can. If the cans didn’t have an expiration date, I suggested that they contact the manufacturer of the food for information or look on the company’s website. I also suggested that they check out StillTasty, a shelf life guide where you can find out how long your favorite food or beverage will stay safe and tasty and what’s the best way to store it. Additionally, I recommended that they check the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service website. Because time was of the essence, I emphasized that, if they couldn’t get the information they needed quickly and easily, common sense should prevail and they should toss or set aside to investigate later items they were unsure of and get fresh supplies in the meantime.
When food is involved, the wise thing to do to protect yourself and your loved ones is either use up your emergency supply cans BEFORE they expire or give them away or donate them well in advance of their expiration dates and replace them with new ones. To avoid the potential unwelcome surprise of emergency food cans past their expiration dates, review your stash of supplies at least once a year. Put a reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget or tie your review in with a yearly event or ritual like New Year’s or turning your clocks backward or forward. It’s also a good time to review/update other in-case-of-emergency items like your insurance policies, emergency contact list, evacuation plans and the contents of your Go (emergency) Bag.
Many of us prefer not to think about bad things happening, but major weather events like Hurricane Irene can and do occur. No one is immune. It could happen to you, so be prepared.