Power Outage Food Safety
Keep Your Food Safe During A Power Outage
Winter is here, and it's important to make sure you're prepared for the season. Power outages are a big risk. A power outage is not only a nuisance but can make some foods in the freezer and refrigerator unsafe to eat. Here are some tips on keeping your food safe during a power outage.
Keeping Food Cold
Keep refrigerator and freezer doors shut while the power is out in order to keep foods cold as long as possible. Typically, if you keep your refrigerator doors closed during a power outage, the food can stay safe for up to four hours, so be sure to keep track of how much time has passed. A helpful trick you can try is to freeze some bottles full of water before the power goes out. This way when the power goes out, the ice will keep your food cold longer. Just be careful not to overfill your bottle or it could bust!
You can also arrange items or bags of food close together in the freezer so they will stay colder for a longer period. If you have a chest freezer or a standing freezer, those may be more effective than a simple fridge freezer but this will depend on the model. Use your judgment.
Another way to keep things cold longer is to use a cooler. A large insulated cooler can be packed with ice to use as storage for some perishable foods in the event of a long power outage. Even if you don't have ice ready, you can usually purchase big bags for cheap at your local grocery store or gas station. However, supplies can run out if the weather is getting bad, so try to pick up ice early if possible.
Coolers that are used to store perishable foods should be kept in a cool area. You can even put them outside in the snow if the conditions are right. This way you are making the weather work for you!
Keep a thermometer on hand that can determine the temperature of foods. If an item of food is over 40 degrees Fahrenheit it may have gone bad. This is considered the "danger zone" because it is the point at which bacteria is able to grow. You never want food to be at this temperature for more than two hours, but even twenty minutes can be risky. Make sure to check any food that has gone past this temperature, or has dethawed. Spoiled items of food may have an odd odor or color, but internal temperature is a better indicator. You can also check the appliance thermometer inside the refrigerator to determine the temperature of the unit.
If you have frozen food that fully dethaws, do not refreeze it. Try to keep the food at a safe level, and cook it as soon as you can. Make sure to prioritize foods that are not safe unless frozen (like meat) over foods that can remain unthawed for a length of time (such as frozen vegetables or fruit). Again be very careful to check the food for spoilage, and try to track how much time it has spent unthawed.
Be extra careful with any meat products. If meat is in the freezer, it can dethaw and cause liquid to spill out, which will contaminate other food. Make sure the meat is fully packed up before the power goes out (or immediately after) to prevent cross-contamination.
If your phones still work then try calling the electric company to get an estimate on when the power will be restored. An estimated time will help a family to determine whether to ask friends for some freezer space. Cell phones should still be able to access data and check for online updates, as well as the current weather forecast.
So, while power outages can be a big nuisance, there are ways to make sure your food stays safe so you don't have to throw out anything when it comes back on. Stay safe and be prepared this winter, it's gonna be a cold one!