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Outage Food Safety

TO REPORT A POWER OUTAGE CALL
800-870-5948 or 918-371-2584

Sudden power outages can be frustrating and troublesome, especially when they are prolonged. Perishable foods should not be held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you need not be concerned, but how do you save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer times? Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables.

WHAT DO I NEED?

  • One or more coolers. Inexpensive styrofoam coolers can do an excellent job as well.
    Shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods and powdered or boxed milk. These can be eaten cold or heated on the grill.
  • A digital quick-response thermometer. A digital thermometer should be a necessity in your kitchen anyway. With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food for doneness and safety.
    What to do...

Do not open the refrigerator or freezer. Tell your little ones not to open the door. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a couple of hours at least. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours.

If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack refrigerated milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, gravy, stuffing and left-overs into your cooler surrounded by ice.

If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.

 
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


Q. What should be discarded after a power outage?
As soon as the power returns, check temperatures. If the food in the freezer has ice crystals and is not above 40 degrees you can refreeze. Perishable foods in the refrigerator should not be above 40 degrees F. for more than two hours. Use this chart to see what has to be discarded and what can be kept.

Q. What if I go to bed and the power is still not on?
Before you go to bed, pack your perishables into your coolers if you haven't already done so and put in as much ice as you can. Also, when you go to bed, leave a bedroom light switched on. When the power goes back on, it will wake you, so you can check the condition of your foods in the freezer.

Q. What if the power goes out while I’m at work or out of the house and it has been more than a few hours before I get home?
Try to determine how long the power has been out. Check the internal temperature of the food in your refrigerator with your quick-response thermometer. A liquid such as milk or juice is easy to check. Spot check other items like steaks or left-overs also. If the internal temperature is above 40 degrees, it is best to throw it out.

Q. What if the power goes out and comes back on while I am out?
If your freezer is fairly full and you know it was not longer than 24 hours, the food should be OK. There will be loss of quality with refreezing, but the food will be safe. If the refrigerator was out for more than 2-4 hours, you are best to discard the perishables.

 

FOOD SAFETY GUIDE

 

 

FROZEN FOODS
Meat and Mixed Dishes: Still Contains Ice Crystals. Not Above 40° F Thawed, Held Above 40°F For Over 2 Hours
Beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry, ground meat and poultry Refreeze Discard
Casseroles with meat, pasta, rice, egg or cheese base, stews, soups, convenience foods, pizza Refreeze Discard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products Refreeze Discard

 

Dairy: Still Contains Ice Crystals. Not Above 40° F Thawed, Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Milk Refreeze Discard
Eggs (out of shell) egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Cheese (soft and semi soft) cream cheese ricotta Refreeze Discard
Hard cheese (cheddar Swiss parmesan) Refreeze Refreeze

 

REFRIGERATED FOODS
Dairy/Eggs/Cheese: Food Still Cold, Held At 40° F Or Above Under 2 Hours Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated, milk yogurt Keep Discard
Butter, margarine Keep Keep
Baby Formula, opened Keep Discard
Eggs, egg dishes, custards puddings Keep Discard
Hard & processed cheeses Keep Keep
Soft cheeses, cottage cheese Keep Discard

 

Baked Goods Baking Ingredients: Still Contains Ice Crystals. Not Above 40° F Thawed, Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Fruit Juices Refreeze Refreeze
Flour, cornmeal, nuts Refreeze Discard after 6 hours
Pie Crusts, Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (no custard fillings) Refreeze Discard if above 50° for over 8 hours.
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling, cheesecake Refreeze Discard
Commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze Refreeze

 

Meat, Poultry, Seafood: Food Still Cold, Held At 40° F Or Above Under 2 Hours Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Fresh or leftover meat, poultry, fish, or seafood Keep Discard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Keep Discard
Canned meats NOT labeled "Keep Refrigerated" but refrigerated after opening Keep Discard
Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated" Keep Discard

 

Mixed Dishes, Side Dishes: Food Still Cold, Held At 40° F Or Above Under 2 Hours Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Casseroles, soups, stews, pizza with meat Keep Discard
Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad Keep Discard
Cooked pasta, Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinegar base Keep Discard
Gravy stuffing Keep Discard

 

Pies, Breads: Food Still Cold, Held At 40° F Or Above Under 2 Hours Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Cream or cheese filled pastries and pies Keep Discard
Fruit pies Keep Keep
Breads, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads Keep Keep
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Keep Discard

 

Sauces, Spreads, Jams: Food Still Cold, Held At 40° F Or Above Under 2 Hours Held Above 40° F For Over 2 Hours
Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish Keep Discard
Opened salad dressing, jelly, relish, taco and barbeque sauce, mustard, catsup, olives Keep Keep

 

Original content adapted from "Help, Power Outage!" Food News for Consumers, Summer 1989, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. ARC 1098 September 1999
 
 
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