Keeping Safe when the Power is Out!
No one wants to think about the havoc caused by a natural disaster. But as the city of Houston and its neighbors learned last week, it can happen to anyone at anytime. We’ve had our fair share of disasters in this area, too. Both the ice storm in 2005 and the Derecho in June, 2012 caused significant power outages.
While food safety might not be the first thing you consider when the power goes out, it’s important to keep some things in mind.
Always keep your refrigerator at 40˚F or below, and keep your freezer at 0˚F. If you’re already starting at above-recommended refrigerator and freezer temperatures, you’ll have even more difficulty keeping items safe to eat.
Keep the doors closed. During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. It may be tempting to open them frequently to check on the temperature, but you’ll be gaining degrees each time.
A refrigerator can keep food safe for about 4 hours (if the temperature was correctly set before the power went out). A freezer that is full can stay at the right temperature for about 48 hours. If your freezer is only half full, you’ll have about 24 hours. Remember, these are for CLOSED refrigerators/freezers only.
Don’t rely on the sniff test after the outage is over. Check your refrigerator thermometer—if it’s above 45˚F, throw out high-risk items like cooked potatoes, rice, beans, or pasta. Toss out dairy, meat, fish, or egg products, as well as mayonnaise and salad dressings. If you’re not 100% sure a food item is safe, it’s best to get rid of it rather than risk food poisoning. If you don’t have a refrigerator thermometer, you’ll need to temp each food.
Freezer foods are safe to eat or refreeze if they still contain ice crystals, or if the temperature hasn’t exceeded 40˚F. As always, be sure to cook the items to a proper temperature.
Crock Pot safety. If your home experiences a power outage while you are away, it’s not safe to serve the food, even if it appears done. If you happen to be home when the power goes out, remove the food from the slow cooker and cook it immediately in a gas stove or a grill. Meat should reach a minimum internal temperature of 160°F, so make sure to have your meat thermometer handy.
As always, when in doubt, throw it out!