It is important to keep food safe during an electric outage, when your refrigerator and freezer goes out, special food safety measures must be taken. Perishable foods including milk, meat and eggs should not be stored above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. During a blizzard the food may last longer than in a warmer weather disaster, follow these steps to keep your food safe.
Blizzard Storm Warning
A blizzard storm warning has been issued for millions of people in the eastern U.S. and will dump large amounts of snow in the Ohio Valley, Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states on Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. The massive winter will affect the Tri-State area with higher amounts of snowfall to the south and east of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Keeping food safe in your freezer during power outage
Sometime in your life your electric will go out due to a winter ice storm, thunderstorm or disaster. Don’t open your freezer until the power is back on, if it can wait. Each time the door opens the temperature inside the freezer goes up and the safety of your frozen food goes down. A full or half-size chest freezer that is in a cool place can keep the temperature steady for 24 hours or longer, especially in the winter. If the electric is out don’t open the door if possible and let everything refreeze for 24 hours before opening to check on the food. This is especially important in warmer weather.
After 24 hours you’ll need to access the situation and what you’ll need to do either keep, cook or throw out food. Any time the freezer door is opened during an electrical outage the food starts to thaw. A big decision needs made to use or lose the food inside if you have a partially full freezer, if the external room temperature is 85°F – 100°F or if the initial freezer temperature is above the freezing mark of 0°F.
The freezer’s location is also important and the ideal place is a cool, dry room. A freezer needs two inches of clearance on each side and several feet above. The garage is not a recommended place in the warmer weather but might be cold enough to safely keep store food in the winter.
Being off grid there are a couple things to do to test the quality of your frozen food. Place two or three ice cubes in a plastic freezer bag and seal it and keep it in the freezer at all times. In an upright freezer you can place a test bag on each shelf. If there is electric failure you can tell if the inside temperature reached above 32°F if the cubes are melted. Then you can quickly determine the temperature of the water inside the baggie and this will give you an idea of the interior temperature of the freezer itself.
What else can I do keep my food safe?
- Have a food thermometer on hand that will allow you to tell the food’s temperature or the temperature of the test cube packet that was kept in the freezer.Keep a thermometer inside the freezer in a place that you can read quickly before the temperature reading changes.
- If you know someone that has a commercial freezer or locker in your area, ask if you can rent a store space during the outage for your food.
- During the winter months, in freezing temperatures, the weather may allow you to temporarily store perishable foods longer. Be careful that the food isn’t contaminated and keep out of reach of animals.
The OSU guidelines on safely refreezing thawed foods is a pdf chart listing conditions in which you can refreeze food that is not completely thawed. Never refreeze foods that have thawed out. The quality will be lost in refreezing plus spoilage may have taken place. Anytime you refreeze any food even after minor thawing in a full freezer is a calculated chance.
All perishable foods over 40°F for more than 2 hours are a risk for food poisoning and should be thrown away. The only safe foods are those that are safe at room temperatures like coffee, nuts and plain bread. When in doubt, throw it out.
Freezer Food Safety
Department of Health gives advice for keeping food safe during a power outage. The first thing to do is throw out food that is unsafe, it is not worth it to get sick eating food that has been thawed too long.
When in doubt, throw it out!
- Throw away any food that has been exposed to temperatures 40° F (4° C) for 2 hours or more or that has an unusual odor, color or texture.