I have heard many preppers talk of the massive food supply that they have. Some have months supply. While others have a year plus of food. All of this food will do no good if it isn’t prepared safely. I have been in the food industry for twenty plus years. In that time we have all seen the news of the mass explosion of food borne illnesses. We have seen the recalls of thousands of pounds of beef and the closure of several chains of restaurants. In a SHTF scenario I doubt we will be living in the best of conditions and using commercial ovens and ranges. I doubt we would even have an electric George Foreman grill. Instead we will be cooking old school, by fire or some type of portable camping propane stove. We could be preparing our meals in the foot hills of the mountains or some dirty ransacked dwelling that should be condemned. Any way you slice it, no matter where we cook we must prepare our food safely. According to the CDC every year 76 million people are infected with some type of food poisoning in the U.S. alone. Of those 5,000 people die every year to these related symptoms. The most affected are the young, the old and the ones with compromised immune systems. Where do these illnesses come from? I’m glad you asked. Food borne illness comes from drinking beverages or eating food that is contaminated with bacteria, parasites or viruses. Food borne illnesses have a variety of symptoms. These symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, confusion, abdominal cramps, dehydration and even death. One or more of these symptoms could be a death sentence in a SHTF scenario. With the lack of medications and diagnosis from a doctor you could be in serious trouble. Imagine if you cooked a wild game bird for dinner and your entire family got ill. Who would tend to them? Who would continue the daily chores needed to survive? Who will protect them from invaders? It is not a pretty thought. The treatment to remedy most of the symptoms is to drink plenty of fluids and keep your electrolytes up and wait it out for a few days. However, sometimes dialysis or a blood transfusion is needed. Kinda tough to do in a SHTF world unless you are a skilled doctor with access to the equipment needed. Here is a list of some of the most common types of pathogens that cause food poisoning:
Salmonella -caused by under cooked poultry or eggs. The symptoms are abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
E coli-caused by under cooked meats. Symptoms are bloody diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and possible death.
Botulinum-caused by improperly canned goods, smoked or salted fish. The symptoms are double vision, inability to swallow, inability to breath, difficulty speaking.
Vulnificus- caused by raw and undercooked shell fish. The symptoms are chills, fever and collapse.
Shigella and Staphylococcus-cause raw foods, unpasteurized milk and dairy products. The symptoms are nausea, fever, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.
First lets talk about where food borne illness comes from. Food borne illness comes from a variety of things. It can occur in produce during the growing, harvesting, processing, storing, shipping or preparation. In raw meat it can occur in the slaughter of the animal. It can occur in eggs as well. In fact one in every 10,000 eggs contains Salmonella. It can also come from the contaminated fertilizer or the water that is used to grow the food. Food can also become inedible by being left out for to long in warm temperatures. This is what we call the food danger zone. The food danger zone is the temperature of food between 40 and 140 degrees. In these danger zones bacteria multiplies rapidly. In two hours you could be eating a BFD (bacteria filled dish). The contamination is almost impossible to detect because it doesn’t produce an odor nor does it change the color or texture of the food. There are several ways to prevent this. The first is to control the time and temperature which the food is in the danger zone temps. If food starts to enter the danger zone try to bring the temperature down to the safe level ASAP, below 40 degrees. Second is to sanitize the area, your hands and utensils you are using.
Bleach is a great cheap sanitizer. a single cap full can go a long way to killing harmful bacteria. Never touch a raw product and then a cooked product. This can cause cross-contamination. Always sanitize when switching to different food products and utensils. Latex or vinyl gloves are a great item to put in your bug out bag. The last way to prevent food borne illness is to cook the food to the proper temp. Cooking to proper temperatures eliminates the threat of these harmful pathogens. The easiest way to test for the correct temp is a food thermometer. These can be picked up just about anywhere for $8-$15. I must advise that getting a non digital one would be best unless you have a stock pile of batteries for it. Who knows how hard it could be to find batteries in the SHTF world.
One thing about food thermometers they must be calibrated regularly, and whenever you drop them. It is very easy to do, no tools required. Either use the ice and water method or the boiling water method. The ice method is the quickest and easiest. The ice method is get a cup of room temp water and ice. Stir very well. Just as the ice begins to melt place your thermometer in the water. the water should cover the small dimple in the rod. (that is the actual temperature reader). Let it stand for 30 seconds or until the dial stops moving. Your thermometer should read 32 degrees. If it does not turn the nut at the base until it reads 32 degrees. Don’t worry it comes with the tool to do it. It is the sheath itself. The boil method is virtually the same. Bring water to a rolling boil place the thermometer into the water for thirty seconds or until the dial stops moving. It should read 212 degrees. If not, then adjust the nut. In either case be sure not to touch the container the water is in as you will get a false reading. If you forget how to do these simple steps, the directions will be on the box of the thermometer and it literally takes 30 seconds. Next, always reheat food to at least 165 degrees. Reheating to 165 degrees ensures that the bacteria are killed and the food has become safe to eat. When you are done eating place left-overs in a shallow pan and cool as quickly as possible. Stir if it is necessary. If a fridge or cooler is not available try using an ice cold creek. The water will lower the temp of the food quickly. In the food industry we use an ice bath. This is fifty percent ice and fifty percent water. It works rather well.
Here is the proper cooking temps for various food products.
beef, pork and veal=160
turkey and poultry=165
eggs cook until yolk and whites are firm
Always keep raw foods separate from cooked foods. The juices from the raw foods can contain harmful organisms that can ruin and contaminate all of your survival food. If you do have a way to store food, store it like this from top to bottom.
1. Cooked foods
2. Fruits and vegetables
3. Fish and seafood
4. Beef and pork
5. Ground beef
The reason it is stored like this is do to the various degrees you cook these items to make it a safe eating experience. You can eat a med rare stake but not a med rare chicken leg. Chicken needs to be cooked to a higher temp then beef to kill all of the organisms. If it was stored backwards chicken blood gets on the beef. you would make your steak med rare and not kill the chicken bacteria and could get very ill.
In the event of a power outage situation keep all refrigerators and freezers closed. A closed refrigerator has about 4 hours of cold in it. A freezer has about 48 hours of cold if it is full. If it is half full combine all of the food together so that it will remain colder longer. A half full freezer only has 24 hours of coldness. Open the doors only when necessary. If the food reaches the danger zone either cook it or discard it. You or your family’s health is not worth the risk. If you end up scrounging for food in a post SHTF world there are a few things to look for to ensure that what you gather is not contaminated. Always go for the commercially packed food if it is available(as they are held to higher standards then mom and pop are). Any canned good with broken seams, dents or leaks is ruined. Move on and don’t bother. Any crack in a jar is just as dangerous and can contain harmful bacteria. All items that are found should be kept in it’s container and immersed in a solution of bleach (2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach per quart of water) for fifteen minutes. Make sure that the water is room temp. Regardless if the SHTF or not (I pray to god not), we must all be aware of how to prepare our meals safely and soundly. Proper sanitation,cleanliness and cooking procedures affect each and everyone of us everyday. In a TEOTWAWKI situation this is even more so. Everyday our lives and those we love depends on proper food preparation. For more info on food safety please visit www.cdc.gov www.fda.gov www.foodsafety.gov They have a vast selection of information on this topic. The statistics used here were obtained from these sites.