Refrigerated food when power is out

Keep your family healthy and safe by knowing what food to keep and discard following a power outage.

With the wild weather in Michigan this winter, power outages occur and can leave you without electricity to power your refrigerator and freezer.  Not only is it a nuisance to be without electricity, but it can cause your frozen and refrigerated foods to spoil.  So what do you do to keep your food safe and how do you know what food is safe following an extended power failure?

Michigan State University Extension says that without refrigeration, bacteria can multiply quickly in food that is held above 40 degrees and may cause food borne illness.  Using a refrigerator and freezer thermometer is important so you can know if the food is held at safe temperatures.  Food in a refrigerator is usually safe for about four to six hours.  Keeping your door closed is important to retain the cold air as long as possible in the refrigerator.  Discard any food that has been kept above 40 degrees for two hours or more.  If you think the power may be off for more than six hours, utilize block ice to keep your food frozen longer.    

Without power, a full freezer should keep food safe about two days and a half-full freezer one day.  Keeping the freezer door closed will help to keep the cool air in.  If the power will be off for an extended time, you can add block ice or dry ice to keep your foods cooler longer.  Dry ice can cause burns so be sure to use gloves when handling dry ice.  Wrap dry ice in newspaper or paper bags and place on a shelf.  If the frozen food still contains ice crystals, you can safely refreeze.  Discard any food that has been above 40 degrees for two hours or more. 

Once power is restored, what should you keep or discard?  The United States Department of Agriculture provides a wonderful chart which outlines what can be kept and refrozen and what needs to be discarded.  Never taste food to determine if it is safe.  Food that has been kept without refrigeration may contain bacteria which could cause food borne illness.  Discard spoiled food by sealing them in a garbage bag.  Remember – when in doubt – throw it out.  It is better to keep your family healthy and not serve them food that may make them sick.

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