Food Safety during a Power Outage: Refrigerated Food and Power Outages
If you’re like me, and you do a lot of hunting and fishing, then your freezer is probably packed full of all sorts of meats. One question that we get quite a bit – especially after a large storm takes down the power lines – is about food safety. People just don’t know what to do with all that food once the power goes out.
- Is the food safe to eat?
- Is there a way to save your food once the power goes out?
It all comes back to Preparedness.
- Keep it Full: A full freezer will hold its temperature for around 48 hours, but only 24 hours if half-full. Empty spaces in your freezer should be filled with frozen plastic jugs of water. Not only will this help keep the food cold during a power outage, but it will also cut down on your electric bill as the freezer won’t have to work as hard to keep the food cold. Once thawed, the jugs can serve as an extra emergency water source.
- Buy an Appliance Thermometer: Keeping an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer can help you determine when your foods about to hit the danger zone. Make sure the refrigerator temperature is at 40 °F or below and the freezer is at 0 °F or below. Once the temperature goes above those numbers, your food has hit the danger zone.
- Buy a Generator: During a power outage situation, an emergency generator can help keep the essentials going. If you have the money, and you live in an area that’s prone to storm related power outages, buying a generator should be at the top of your list.
- Have an alternative: The bulk of your short-term emergency food supply should be made up of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
What to eat when the power goes out?
As a rule of thumb, most of your short-term emergency food supply should be made up of ready-to-eat foods that need very little preparation. Canned goods, packaged foods and other food items that do not require cooking are all things that you should stock up on now.
- Grab the Cooler: Once the power goes out, I suggest grabbing a cooler and a couple of your frozen water jugs. Anything that you know you’re going to need should be put into the cooler. This will keep you from needlessly opening the refrigerator and freezer doors.
- Have a way to cook it: I recommend having some sort of outdoor stove or grill. I have both a propane grill and an EcoZoom Rocket Stove for when things get really tough. I did a small review on the stove here.
Know when to save or throw out food following a power outage.
When it comes to eating food after a power outage, each item should be checked for signs of spoilage. That being said, there are some general rules that should keep you safe.
|FOOD||Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours|
|MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD|
|Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes||
|Thawing meat or poultry||Discard|
|Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad||Discard|
|Gravy, stuffing, broth||Discard|
|Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef||Discard|
|Pizza, with any topping||Discard|
|Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated”||Discard|
|Canned meats and fish, opened||Discard|
|Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco||
|Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano||Safe|
|Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)||Safe|
|Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk||
|Baby formula, opened||Discard|
|Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products||
|Custards and puddings||Discard|
|CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS||Discard|
|Fresh fruits, cut||
|Fruit juices, opened||Safe|
|Canned fruits, opened||Safe|
|Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates||Safe|
|SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS|
|Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish||
Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
|Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles||Safe|
|Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin sauces||Safe|
|Fish sauces (oyster sauce)||Discard|
|Opened vinegar-based dressings||Safe|
|Opened creamy-based dressings||Discard|
|Spaghetti sauce, opened jar||Discard|
|BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES,PASTA, GRAINS|
|Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas||
|Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough||Discard|
|Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes||Discard|
|Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette||Discard|
|Breakfast foods—waffles, pancakes, bagels||Safe|
|Pastries, cream filled||
|Pies—custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche||Discard|
|Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices||
|Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged||Discard|
|Vegetables, cooked; tofu||Discard|
|Vegetable juice, opened||Discard|
|Commercial garlic in oil||Discard|
|FOOD||Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated||Thawed.
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
|MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD|
|Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats||
|Poultry and ground poultry||Refreeze||Discard|
|Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)||Refreeze||Discard|
|Casseroles, stews, soups||Refreeze||Discard|
|Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products||Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss.||Discard|
Refreeze. May lose some texture.
|Eggs (out of shell) and egg products||Refreeze||Discard|
|Ice cream, frozen yogurt||Discard||Discard|
|Cheese (soft and semi-soft)||Refreeze. May lose some texture.||Discard|
|Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses||Refreeze||Discard|
|Juices||Refreeze||Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.|
|Home or commercially packaged||Refreeze. Will change texture and flavor.||Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.|
|Juices||Refreeze||Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.|
|Home or commercially packaged or blanched||Refreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss.||Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.|
|Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling||Refreeze||Discard|
|Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough||Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur.||Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.|
|Casseroles—pasta, rice based||Refreeze||Discard|
|Flour, cornmeal, nuts||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Breakfast items—waffles, pancakes, bagels||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods)||Refreeze||Discard|