Summer thunderstorms can cause power outages, resulting in your refrigerator losing power and raising questions about the safety of the food inside. When the power goes out, it is important to understand how to keep your food safe. Planning can help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Once eggs have been refrigerated, it is important they stay cool, even during a power outage. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria. Eggs are required to be refrigerated at 45˚ or lower for safety and optimal freshness. During a power outage, follow these guidelines to keep eggs safe.
Make sure to have an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator or freezer. Freezer temperature should be 0˚ and refrigerator temperature should be below 40˚. Knowing these temperatures will help you determine the safety of your food during and after a power outage.
Leave the freezer and refrigerator doors closed. This will reduce temperature fluctuations which is critical to food safety. The refrigerator will maintain its temperature for about four hours after the power goes out. A full freezer will keep food frozen for approximately 48 hours.
Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers. Dry ice will also keep the food inside cold. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18 cubic foot fully stocked freezer cold for about two days.
When the power is re-established, you need to determine the safety of your food. First, check the appliance thermometer. If the temperature inside the refrigerator has been above 40˚ for two hours or more, discard the perishable food, including eggs. See this Foodsafety.gov chart for guidelines to determine whether to keep or discard specific foods. When in doubt, throw it out!
The best time to prepare for a weather emergency is now. By taking a few precautions, you can remain certain of the safety of your food during a power outage weather.