We receive many calls during the spring and summer regarding power outages and freezer and refrigerator food safety. The callers may have experienced extreme weather conditions such as a severe storm or flooding, or other reasons.
What foods can you keep and what needs to be tossed? That depends. If your freezer is full, your frozen food can remain safe for three days, but if it is on the emptier side and the temperatures are warm, it may not last as long. Here are some guidelines for what to keep and what to dispose of and what steps to take in this situation:
- Without power, refrigerators keep food cool for four to six hours.
- Place block of ice in a container in the refrigerator to keep food cooler.
- Do NOT open the refrigerator.
- If power is interrupted, do NOT open the freezer unnecessarily.
- If the freezer is full and you keep the door closed, the food will stay frozen about two-three days. If the freezer is not full, group packages together so they stay cold longer.
- If you anticipate the power going off, turn the freezer control to the lowest temperature setting. If you have several days without power, act quickly. Get dry ice and put it in the freezer before the food starts to thaw. For a 20-cubic-feet, full freezer, 50 pounds of dry ice keeps food frozen for four days. To use dry ice, place cardboard on top of the food. Put the dry ice on top of the cardboard. Handle it with gloves and have the room well ventilated. Caution: be certain of good ventilation in the room. Carbon dioxide gas can accumulate and cause loss of consciousness/asphyxiation.
- If power will be out more than a few days, transfer foods as quickly as possible to another freezer or a commercial locker.
- Do not put food out on the snow-the sun may cause warming.
After Power is Restored:
- Check food temperatures. If food is above 40 degrees, you need to determine how long it was at 40 degrees. If food items were above 40 degrees longer than two hours, throw away the food.
- For frozen foods, look for ice crystals and check temperature.
- Throw away perishables such as meat and poultry leftovers.
Do Not Refreeze:
- Food that has thawed completely and is less than 40 degrees, especially meat, poultry and seafood.
- Prepared, cooked foods such as pizza, hot dishes, stews and soups.
- Foods with off colors or odors.
- Creamed foods, pudding or other low-acid foods that have thawed.
Safe to Refreeze:
- Foods that still contain ice crystals.
- Bread, cake, cookies, doughnuts.
- Nuts, flour, cereal.
- Raw meat and poultry that is 40 degrees or less.
- Cheese, butter.
For more information, call us here at AnswerLine and our staff will be happy to assist you.