Power outages can bring about many questions about the safety of the food in refrigerators and freezers. Following are points that can help determine what to keep and what to throw out as well as precautions if power fails.
If the temperature of the refrigerator reaches above 40 degrees for more than two hours, then some foods will need to be thrown away. This would include any meat, milk, eggs, and other perishable foods. Foods that are high in carbohydrate and moisture or high in protein are especially high risk foods.
Adding bowls of ice to the refrigerator during an outage can help keep food out of the danger zone. Food in a freezer, however, can be safe for up to two days if the freezer is not opened. Several factors can affect how long food stays frozen. Dense foods such as a full freezer of meat will stay frozen longer than frozen vegetables. However, a freezer that is half full will only stay frozen for one day. Increasing insulation during an outage by wrapping the freezer in blankets can also add to the length of time it stays frozen.
If you checked the food when the power returned and you could feel the crunch of ice crystals, then it is safe to refreeze the food. If there were no ice crystals left, but the temperature of the freezer was less that 40 degrees then the food should be safe to eat. Cook that food and eat in the next few days or refreeze in the cooked form.
A good precaution to take before an outage occurs is to fill up a plastic cup with water and freeze it, then place it upside down in the freezer. If there is an outage while you are away from home, you can check to see if there is any ice left in the cup or if it has melted into a puddle below. No ice in the cup means that food should probably be thrown out. The old saying, “If in doubt, throw it out!” is wise advice because the cost of refilling a refrigerator with fresh food is a lot less than a visit to the hospital for food poisoning!
This information was taken from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension lesson, Feeding Your Family When Disaster Strikes.