Loss of power can jeopardize the safety of the food stored in your home refrigerator or freezer. In the event of a blackout, do you know how to determine if your food is safe to eat? The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers tips to minimize the potential loss of food and lower the risk of foodborne illness.
Before a blackout:
· Gather an emergency supply of shelf-stable food, packaged foods, boxed or canned milk, bottle water, and canned goods;
· Have coolers and frozen gel packs on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power goes out longer than four hours; and
· Keep freezer items close together—this helps the food stay cold longer.
Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The USDA instructs setting your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the power is out for less than four hours and the refrigerator door is kept closed, your food should be safe.
Following a blackout:
· Discard any perishable food items such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers that have been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more;
· Use a food thermometer to test the temperature of food – never taste it! You can’t rely on appearance and odor to determine whether food is safe; and
· Discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat, seafood, or poultry juices.
Power outages can occur anywhere at any time of the year. Make sure you and your family are prepared and know what to do to avoid getting sick.