Recent weather events caught people off guard when their electricity went out and stayed out for more than a few hours. When the power goes out, its important to handle food safely.
Since we never know when an emergency may occur, its important to know how to keep your food safe during a power outage. There are things we can do before disaster strikes to know that our food will be safe. Follow these tips to prepare your home.
Keep an appliance thermometer in both the refrigerator and freezer. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is at or below 40 degrees and the freezer is below 0 degrees. Appliance thermometers can be purchased inexpensively at general or home maintenance stores.
Group foods together in both the refrigerator and freezer. This helps foods stay cold longer.
Keep the freezer full. Fill empty spaces with frozen plastic jugs of water, bags of ice or gel packs.
Freeze refrigerated items that you may not need immediately, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry. This will keep them at a safe temperature longer.
Have a large, insulated cooler and frozen gel packs available. Perishable foods will stay safe in an unopened refrigerator only four hours. Know where you can purchase dry ice or block ice.
How to keep food safe during a power outage:
Resist the urge to open the refrigerator to check on things. Limit the number of times you open the door when the power is off. Keep the doors closed.
The refrigerator will keep food safe for up to four hours. If the power is off longer, you can transfer food to a cooler and fill with ice or frozen gel packs. Make sure there is enough ice to keep food in the cooler at 40 degrees or below. Add more ice to the cooler as it begins to melt.
A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).
Obtain dry ice or block ice if your power is going to be out for a prolonged period. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot freezer for two days. Caution: do not touch dry ice with bare hands or place it in direct contact with food.
In the freezer, food in the front, in the door or in small, thin packages will defrost faster than large, thick items or food in the back or bottom of the unit.
When the power comes back on, check the temperature on the thermometers in the refrigerator and the freezer. As long as the refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees or lower and the freezer temperature is 0 degrees or lower the food is still safe.
Never taste food to determine if it is safe. Remember the motto: If in doubt, throw it out!
Discard the following if your refrigerator has been without power for more than four hours:
Raw, cooked or leftover meat, poultry, fish, eggs and egg substitutes
Luncheon meat and hot dogs
Casseroles, soups, stews and pizza
Mixed salads such as chicken, tuna, macaroni and potato
Gravy and stuffing
Milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream and soft cheeses
Cut fruits and vegetables
Fruit and vegetable juices (opened)
Creamy-based salad dressings
Batters and doughs such as pancake batter, cookie dough; custard, chiffon or cheese pies
Cream filled pastries
Garlic stored in oil
Discard opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish if they were held above 50 degrees for more than eight hours.
Discard any foods such as bread or salad greens that may have become contaminated by juices dripping from raw meat, poultry or fish.
In general, if any food has an unusual odor, color or texture, throw it out.
High-acid foods such as mustard, ketchup, relishes, pickles, non-creamy salad dressings, jams and jellies are safe; however, they may spoil sooner.
We often keep foods that dont require refrigeration in the refrigerator, these foods may be used unless they turn moldy or have an unusual odor. Examples: Fresh whole fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and coconut, hard cheeses, butter and margarine, fresh herbs and spices, flour and nuts.
Frozen foods that have thawed, but still contain ice crystals may be used or refrozen.
Foods that have remained at refrigerator temperatures at 40 degrees or below are safe. They may be safely refrozen; however, their quality may suffer.
Jan Baggarly is Bibb County Extension coordinator with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension working in the field of Family and Consumer Sciences. Contact her at 478-751-6338 or email@example.com.