Food safety tips for when the power goes out

Published 9:29 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2012

We’re in the midst of hurricane season, but there are also other times when your power may go out for six or more hours, leaving many Dallas County citizens with the same — “what do I do about the food in my freezer?” Is it safe to eat?

Here are some guidelines that will help you to keep your food safe when the power goes out:

4 Proper temperature: One main factor in keeping food safe is keeping it at the proper temperature. The only way you can know if your food is at the correct temperature is by using a thermometer in both your refrigerator and freezer. Food in the refrigerator should be kept at below 40 degrees and food in the freezer should be kept at below zero degrees.

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4 Food in the freezer: A full freezer will usually keep food frozen for two days (one day for a half full freezer). Remember that the freezer should stay closed as much as possible. When the power comes back on, evaluate your food for degree of frozenness. If ice crystals remain, you can safely refreeze the food. If there are no ice crystals, but the food is below 40 degrees, then you should cook and then serve or refreeze. Any food that has thawed to above 40 degrees should be discarded because dangerous bacteria could be growing in the food. Sight and smell are not good indicators of whether or not food is good or bad.

4 Food in the refrigerator: In a refrigerator without power food will remain chilled for up to 4 to 6 hours. This temperature will keep the longest if you do not open the door of the refrigerator while the power is out. If you think that the power will be out longer than this, add bags of regular ice to keep the temperatures cool longer. Place the ice on the upper shelves and pans to catch the melting ice on the lower shelves. Open the door only to add ice. Place a thermometer in the area farthest from the ice. As soon as the power returns check to be certain that food has been kept below 40 degrees.

Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.

For more information on this topic, call and request or download from our website the following publication: HE-670 – Food and Water Safety When the Power Goes Out.