We've talked about Power Outages in the past ( What is the most common emergency? ) But have you considered how Power outages can jeopardize the safety of the food stored in your home refrigerator or freezer. If you lose electricity, do you know how to determine if your food is safe to eat? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers tips to follow before and after a power outage to minimize loss of food and lower the risk of foodborne illness:
- Gather an emergency food supply of shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, bottled water, and canned goods;
- Have coolers and frozen gel packs on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power goes out longer than four hours;
- Buy an appliance thermometer for the refrigerator and freezer and a food thermometer to help you know if the food has stayed at a safe temperature during an outage;
- Throw out any perishable food items such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours;
- Use a food thermometer to test the temperature of food – never taste it! You can’t rely on appearance and odor to determine whether food is safe; and
- Discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
Keep in mind that your refrigerator will keep food cold safely for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
Did you know that a flood or fire can also impact the safety of food in your home? Be sure to check out the FAQs on the USDA website about keeping food safe after these emergencies.