Food Safety During a Power Outage
Power outages may mean your refrigerator, stove, or microwave cannot work. When food is not kept cold or is not fully cooked, the food can make you sick. More than 250 diseases can be caused by bacteria found in contaminated raw or undercooked food, such as meat, milk, eggs, fish, or shellfish. Keeping these foods cold and cooking them will help prevent foodborne illness.
If you think your power might be out for a long time, use foods that can spoil fast before foods that keep longer. Find out now where you can buy dry ice to keep your freezer cold, or blocks of ice for the refrigerator. Buy an ice chest.
It is most important to keep meat, seafood, and dairy products cold. An ice chest packed with ice or snow can keep food cold. Bags of ice or block ice can be purchased and placed in the refrigerator to keep food cold.
Dry ice from a local ice company or grocery store can help save frozen food. Use caution when handling dry ice and follow these tips:
Keep doors to refrigerators and freezers closed to keep cold air inside. Freezers that are part of a refrigerator-freezer combination will keep food frozen for up to a day. A free-standing chest or upright freezer will keep food frozen solid for two days if it is fully loaded. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for a day, especially if the food has been grouped together.
It is most important to keep meat, seafood, and dairy products cold. In cold weather, other items can be stored in a cardboard box in a garage or shed. Generally, the following items can be kept on a countertop or in the garage:
Storing food outside during winter isn’t recommended. The outside temperature changes from hour to hour. The sun may thaw frozen foods or warm cold foods so that they grow bacteria. If you store food outside anyway, make sure that animals don’t contaminate the food.
If food is cold to the touch, and you know it has not been above 45 degrees F for more than an hour or two, it is probably safe to keep, use, or refreeze. Throw away all meat, seafood, dairy products, or cooked foods that don’t feel cold to the touch. Even under proper refrigeration, many raw foods should be kept only three or four days before they are cooked, frozen, or thrown away. If in doubt, throw it out. Never taste suspicious food. It may look and smell fine, but the bacteria that cause foodborne illness may have grown on the food and will make you sick.