If your power was out just a few hours and you didn’t open the refrigerator or freezer, chances are the food is OK. A refrigerator should keep food cold for four hours and a half-full freezer 24 hours (48 hours if the freezer is full) if you don’t open the doors, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Here’s a clip-and-save checklist gleaned from www.fsis.usda.gov to have handy next time the power goes out.
- Try not to open the refrigerator and freezer doors (doing so lets the cold air escape).
- If you know the power will be out for an extended period, get ice or dry ice to keep foods cold.
- Use a refrigerator-freezer thermometer to check the temperature.
- In either the refrigerator or freezer, if the temperature is 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.
- Check the packages. If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below when checked with a food thermometer, you can refreeze it.
- Group foods together in the freezer to help them stay cold longer.
- Keep food on ice in coolers.
- Never taste food to determine whether it’s safe.
Foods to Toss
Bacteria growth can take place in these foods that have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more:
- Meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, yogurt, eggs, leftovers, hot dogs, bacon, lunch meats, pizza, shredded cheeses, casseroles, pasta and pasta sauces.
- Cream-based salad dressings, sauces and soups.
- Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish.
- Pasta salads with creamy or mayonnaise-based dressings.
- Sour cream-based dips.
- Fruits and vegetables that have become slimy or spoiled.
Foods to Keep
- Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, jelly, jams, soy sauce and bottled marinade. Typically these have high salt and sugar content that can act as a preservative.
- Fresh bread and rolls.
- Fruits and vegetables that show no signs of decay.
The best rule to follow: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
©2012 Detroit Free Press
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