Thursday, September 12, 2013

Food Safety during Power Outages

Some areas of Delaware County have experienced power outages due to severe thunderstorms.  It is important to keep your food safe during a power outage to prevent spoilage which puts you at a higher risk for food borne illnesses.

If the power goes out, it is important to open the refrigerator and freezer as little as possible. Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? Generally, food in the refrigerator will remain cold for four to six hours if the door isn't opened.
Discard any perishable food (such as meat, dairy, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours.  When in doubt throw it out!
Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.
Note: Always discard any items in the refrigerator or freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
Despite your best efforts, the food in your freezer may partially or completely thaw before power is restored.
Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.
If you keep an appliance thermometer in your freezer, it’s easy to tell whether food is safe. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer. If it reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen.

Helpful Hints: Saving Food in the Freezer

The freezer temperature should be between 0 and -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Keep the cold air in your freezer by not opening the door any more than necessary. An unopened full freezer will stay at freezing temperature about two days and a half-full freezer about one day.
  • The kind of food in the freezer makes a difference. For instance, foods with a high water content, such as meat or fruit, will stay frozen longer than food with a low water content, such as bread.
  • If your freezer is not full, group packages so they form an "igloo" to protect each other. Place them to one side or on a tray so that if they begin thawing, their juices won't get on other food.
  • If you think power will be out for several days, try to find some dry ice.  Although dry ice can be used in the refrigerator, block ice is better. If your refrigerator's freezer is thawing out, you can put the block ice in the refrigerator's freezer along with your refrigerated perishables such as meat, poultry and dairy items.

For more information on Food Safety contact Delaware County Public Health at (607)-832-5200 or New York State Oneonta District Office (607)-432-3911.