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Keeping Food Safe During a Power Outage

There are basic steps you can take to save frozen and refrigerated food during a power outage

When the lights go out and the silence takes over during a power outage, one of the first things you think about is the cold food. While it may be rare for power to be out more than a few hours in most areas, there is always the possibility of what to do with food for longer periods.

First, do not open the refrigerator and freezer doors. The cold air will be lost within a few seconds. Refrigerated foods are in the most danger, especially if they have been sitting at 40-plus degrees for more than two hours. Eggs and egg-based products should be thrown away at that point. Also, plan on tossing yogurt, soft cheeses, cooked pasta, milk, and cream. Of course, raw and cooked meat, poultry, and seafood should also go without question.

Foods that can survive without the frigid temps for a couple of days include jellies, relish, mustard, ketchup, barbecue and taco sauces, olives, and butter or margarine.

Foods will remain colder longer if the refrigerator and freezer are full. A freezer, if it is loaded will probably keep foods safe for about 48 hours. If electricity comes back on in that time, check to make sure all contents are still loaded with ice crystals. These foods are generally safe to re-freeze.

Once you reach the 48-hour mark, however, it's time to fire up the grill and start cooking. Food that has thawed in the freezer should be grilled or smoked and then re-cooled or refrozen. At this point, if you have access to ice and an ice chest, you're good for a while longer. The cooked food should go back in the freezer as soon as possible, however.

If you expect an extended outage, you can take steps to keep your food safe - but still no longer than a couple of days. Turn up the chill in the refrigerator and freezer. The colder the food, the longer it will last. Purchase dry ice. Wrap it in heavy layers of newspaper and place it in both units. Be sure to never touch it with anything but a thick towel and do not let it rest against food. Fill in voids with crumpled newspaper to keep the inside even cooler. Buy extra bagged ice for the freezer. You can transfer some food to ice chests to gain a little extra time.

It is very hard to throw food away, especially a freezer- or refrigerator-full. Keep in mind that it's better to lose food than to deal with a bout of serious food poisoning. The old adage "when it doubt, throw it out" should be strictly adhered to.


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Pittsburg, TX 75686
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