Hurricane season is under way, with Hurricane Bill storming up the Atlantic. Even though Bill did not affect this area, it is important to plan ahead for future fall and winter storms. Severe storms can cause power outages and food safety issues. Frequently people want to know how long their food will keep in the refrigerator and/or freezer after an outage.
First, in a power outage keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut! Post a sign on your refrigerator to remind your family members not to open!
• Usually a full freezer will keep for about 2 days.
• If your freezer is only partially full, quickly regroup the items next to each other. This will help the items stay frozen for approximately a day.
• Move your food to a neighbor's or family member's freezer if they have extra space, or get a bag of ice to put in your freezer.
• Once the power returns check the items in your freezer. If they are still partially frozen and have ice crystals, it is safe to refreeze or cook the items.
• In general frozen foods should be kept at 0 degrees or less. Use an appliance thermometer to check your freezer's efficiency.
• It is important to have an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator.
In general, cold foods should be stored at 41 degrees or below.
• Foods can be kept safely for approximately 4 hours if the door is kept closed.
• If the temperature in your refrigerator rises above 41 degrees for more than 2 hours, discard the following types of foods: meats, meat and fish salads, gravy, luncheon meats, bacon, sausage, pizza, opened canned meats, soft cheeses, shredded and low fat cheeses, dairy products, opened baby formula, eggs, custards, puddings, casseroles, soups, and stews.
Most importantly, do not taste food to see if it is safe. When in doubt, throw-out, or call your Family Consumer Sciences agent!
Source: USDA Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheet
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/index.asp; Accessed on August 17, 2009