Sunday, September 5, 2010

Food Safety During Power Failures

One of the hazards you and your family may face during a power failure is the potential for food items stored in your refrigerator or freezer to become contaminated by bacteria.

There will be certain foods with the potential to be quite hazardous to you and your family. Other food items may be safe to eat but their quality (taste, appearance, etc.) may have deteriorated. There will also be several types of food items that will be safe to consume.

Foods that have a greater potential to be hazardous to your health should be your main priority. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and certain cooked foods like beans, rice, potatoes, pasta and pasta salads will all spoil quite quickly.

Other food items may not be hazardous but their quality can be affected by increases in temperature due to a power failure. These types of food items include things like salad dressing, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, vegetables and fruit. These items may be saved from being a complete loss by placing ice inside your refrigerator. A couple of frozen two liter bottles of water can help to maintain the temperature in your refrigerator till the power is restored if the power outage lasts only a short time.

Things like unopened beverages and juices and open containers of ketchup, mustard, jams and jellies, and peanut butter should all be fairly safe for consumption.

Remember to keep the doors closed on your refrigerator or freezer as much as possible to keep the cold air inside and keep your raw foods separate from foods which are ready to eat. Most refrigerated foods should be safe for consumption as long as the power hasn’t been out for more than a few hours. Certain hazardous foods should be immediately discarded if they have warmed up to temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a temperature thermometer to check these food items and never taste food items to determine if it is safe to eat. Appearance, taste and smell aren’t always accurate indicators of whether food has become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Food items that have remained frozen should still be safe. Partially thawed food items (still cold or containing ice crystals) should be cooked and used as soon as possible.

The best advice is to remember the old saying:

“When in doubt, throw it out!”

Be aware. Be informed. Be prepared.



Groundhog said...

RW, I was all prepared to say you made a mistake regarding the mayo and spoilage. Everything I've ever heard about it suggested it goes bad very quickly. But I decided that if I was going to shoot my mouth off about something I'd better have some idea of what I was talking about. Sure enough, mayo is usually safe for a while unrefrigerated. Alton Brown of food network fame won't leave home made stuff out for more than 8-12 hours. I'd presume commercial would last longer but I don't know how long. Learn something new every day!

riverwalker said...

To: Groundhog

Mayo will last for several hours but falls into the category of diminished quality...the taste and color will be off but is safe to use for a short time period (a few hours or so) before it needs to be discarded.