Food Safety When the Power is Out

We often think about power outages with summer storms, but this year the snow and ice have brought about numerous electrical outages as well.

Here are a few tips to be prepared for electrical outages:snow picture

  • A full freezer stays cold longer. If yours isn’t full of food, freeze milk jugs of water.
  • Group frozen food together, the closer it is together, the longer it will stay frozen. So as you use up food, move foods to the same shelf (and add that frozen jug of water).
  • Use a thermometer to check the regular temperature of your freezer. A freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. A refrigerator at least 40 degrees F.
  • Make sure you have a can opener that is not electric to open foods when an outage occurs.

When the power is out:

  • Avoid opening refrigerators or freezers, each time you open you let out the cool air.
  • Perishable foods such as milk, meat, poultry, fish, soft or shredded cheeses, left overs, lunch meats, and eggs must be disposed of after 4 hours without electrical power to a refrigerator. You may want to move a few of these items to a cooler with ice, if you still don’t have electric after a couple hours.
  • A full freezer will typically keep food frozen for about 2 days when the electric is out.

How to determine if frozen food is still safe? Foods are still safe and may be refrozen if they still have ice crystals. When the power comes back on you will need to check packages and dispose of any with drippings and thawed foods. Ice cream is often messy!

Foods that will stay safe include: vinegar based dressings, jelly, pickles, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, whole fresh fruits and vegetables – but not cut, grated parmesan cheese in a jar, and butter and margarine.

Foods that need thrown away include: opened cream based dressings, fish or oyster sauce, eggs, puddings, yogurt, opened baby formula, pre-cut greens, vegetables juices, fresh or cooked pasta,  and of course meats and eggs.

For a more in-depth chart on foods that are safe or need to be disposed of check out  http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/refridg_food.html.

Remember to never taste foods to check on their safety! Odor and appearance will not always clue us in to food poisoning.

Sources:

Keep Food Safe, United States Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/index.html.

USDA, Food Safety Education, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/emergency-preparedness/a-consumers-guide-to-food-safety-severe-storms-and-hurricanes/ct_index.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, goard.1@osu.edu.

Photo by Andrew Whitis.

 

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About lisabarlage

Lisa is an Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County/Ohio Valley. Her specialization is health and wellness. She enjoys working with diabetic groups, workplaces, youth wellness programs, and extending community programs by working with other agencies. She is married and has a daughter who is a Buckeye. In her free time she enjoys attending her local farmers market, Ohio State Buckeye sports, and reading.
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