Power Outages and Food Safety
The woes of weather-related power outages
How long will perishable foods stay safe once the power is off? Here’s a general guideline from Canada’s Food Safety Network (FSN).
Food safety 101
To inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms, the refrigerator temperature should be no higher than 4°C (40°F) and the freezer should be -18°C (0°F) or below. A power outage can cause temperatures to rise above these levels within a few hours, making meat, poultry, fish, milk and eggs unsafe to eat.
If you do lose power, your refrigerator should keep food at or below 4°C (40°F) for four to six hours, depending on the kitchen temperature, age of the refrigerator and the number of times the door is opened. Food in a full freezer should remain frozen for 48 hours, and 24 hours if the freezer is half-full.
During an outage, be sure to:
— Make a note of the time the power outage started.
Refrigerated foods: What to toss?
Discard food that has been at temperatures above 4°C (40°F) for more than two hours. This includes:
— Fresh or leftover meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish
— Deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon
— Eggs, custards, puddings, and cookie dough
— Soft cheeses, low fat cheeses, milk, cream, sour cream or yogurt
— Prepared infant formula and opened baby food
Refrigerated foods: What to keep?
Foods that can safely be stored above 4°C for a few days include:
— Ketchup, relishes, olives, jams and jellies, mustard, barbecue sauce, soy sauce
— Fruit juices
— Vinegar-based salad dressings
— Bread, rolls, bagels, cakes (without cream or custard), cookies and muffins
— Certain hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan and Romano. Also processed cheese
— Butter and margarine
— Whole non-cut fresh fruits and vegetables and mushrooms.
The deal on frozen foods
Food in the freezer can be refrozen so long as the temperature of the freezer remained at 4°C or below. If a thermometer was not kept in the freezer, be sure to check each food package individually. Generally speaking, if it still contains ice crystals it can be refrozen — and if it has thawed, throw it away.