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Mekenzie Riley, MS, RD
Former Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness
Former Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development
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Monday, November 18, 2013
When the power goes out, check the time. It is important to know how long your power has been out. Food in the refrigerator will stay safe for a few hours. Opening the refrigerator door lets cold air out and warm air in. Do not open and close the door to check food.
Even if the food looks and smells fine, it may not be safe to eat. Bacteria that causes food poisoning does not make food look any different. It will not smell bad or look funny. If the food has been warm, above 40 degrees, for more than two hours throw it away. Do not taste the food to see if it is still good.
If there is space in the freezer, transfer as much food as possible to the freezer. Use block ice in the refrigerator. Place the ice on a tray or pan in the refrigerator. The ice will help to keep the refrigerator cool for about a day.
Food in the refrigerator/freezer will stay frozen for about a day. Food in a freestanding freezer will stay frozen longer. A full freezer will keep food frozen for about two days. A half-full freezer for about one day. Food will stay frozen longer if the door is not constantly opened and closed.
If your freezer is not full, rearrange it. Group all the frozen packages together. Separate meat from fruits and vegetables. The packages will stay frozen longer if there is no air space between them. Use crumpled newspaper to fill in the spaces. Use dry ice in the freezer. Cover the entire freezer with blankets.
Be careful when handling dry ice. Use gloves; do not let it touch bare skin. It will cause severe skin damage. Do not inhale the fumes. A 25 pound block of dry ice will keep food frozen for days. A full 10-cubic freezer should hold for three to four days.
Thawed fruits and vegetables can be refrozen. Raw meat that still has some ice crystals can be refrozen. Meat that is still cold can be refrozen too. It may suffer some quality loss, but it is safe to eat. Discard any cooked food that has come in contact with raw meat juices.
Go to http://urbanext.illinois.edu/thriftyliving/tl-powerout.html for the complete article and a chart to judge what to keep or discard. Remember, when in doubt throw it out.
Other food safety resources are found at: