What To Throw Out...

       When the Power Goes Out !!!

August 15, 2003

CHICAGO -- With the largest blackout in North American history currently affecting as many as 50 million people, food spoilage can be a serious problem when refrigerators and freezers lose power. Consumers can help avoid spoilage and foodborne illness in their homes by making sure foods stay properly refrigerated during a power outage. The American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods Foundation recommend following these simple home food safety tips: During a power outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open them only when necessary. "If power is restored within four hours, items in the refrigerator should be safe to eat," says registered dietitian Carolyn O'Neil, national spokesperson for the ADA/ConAgra Foods' Home Food Safety ... It's in Your Hands program. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for two days if the door remains closed. A half-full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures for one day if the door remains closed. Stock up on non-perishable foods that don't require refrigeration, and choose single-serve sizes if available to avoid the need for refrigeration of unused portions. Consider these easy, healthy, shelf-stable foods:

  • Breads/Grains: single-serving boxes of cereal, trail mix, energy bars, granola bars, cereal bars, bagels, muffins, crackers, popcorn and chips
  • Fruits and Vegetables: carrot and celery sticks and other cut-up raw vegetables, grapes, single-serve applesauce, whole fruit (apples, peaches, bananas), dried fruit mix and juice boxes
  • Dairy Alternatives: single-serve milk or soy beverage boxes and nonrefrigerated pudding cups
  • Meat and Other Protein Sources: cans of tuna, beef jerky, peanut butter (for sandwiches or with celery and apples), nuts and single-serve packages of peanut butter and crackers

When power is restored, allow time for the refrigerator to reach below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before restocking. Make sure -- before an outage -- that the refrigerator is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of the middle shelf and check the temperature. "After a blackout, check the refrigerator temperature," says O'Neil. "If it has risen to 45 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, discard any potentially spoiled foods." Such foods include meat, poultry, fish, dairy and egg products, soft cheese, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato salad, custard and pudding. And of course, "When in doubt, throw it out," says O'Neil.

FACT SHEET - FOOD SAFETY FACTS ON POWER FAILURE FOOD SAFETY August 15, 2003 From a press release OTTAWA - Handling and preparing food is always important in preventing foodborne illness, but a power failure can result in food becoming spoiled due to a lack of refrigeration. Follow these safe food handling tips during a power failure to reduce the risk of foodborne illness:

Frozen food

Freezing stops the growth of bacteria. A full upright or chest freezer will keep food frozen for up to 2 days during a power failure. A half-full freezer will keep the food frozen for about one day if the freezer is kept closed. If you know the power will be back on soon, keep the freezer door closed as much as possible to help the food last longer, and put ice in the freezer to help keep it cold. If you know that a power failure will last for a long period of time, transport the food to a friend's or family member's freezer if possible. If it is winter time, you can store food outside. Discard any thawed food that has remained at room temperature for 2 or more hours. When in doubt, throw it out. Discard any food that has an obvious strange colour or odour. If raw food has leaked during thawing, clean and disinfect the areas the food has touched. Do not reuse wash cloths until they have been cleaned and disinfected. Food that still contains ice crystals or feels refrigerator-cold can be re-frozen. Refrigerated food During a power failure the refrigerator will keep food cool for 4 to 6 hours, depending on the kitchen temperature and the original temperature of the refrigerator. Place securely wrapped packages of raw meat, poultry or fish in the coldest section of your refrigerator. Put ice in the refrigerator to help keep it cool. An ice box or cooler filled with ice will help keep perishable foods temporarily chilled. Discard any food that has remained at room temperature for 2 or more hours. When in doubt, throw it out. Dry goods Do not store dry goods on the floor because insects and rodents may get inside. Dry items such as cookies, potato chips, etc. do not need to be kept cool. For further information: on foodborne illness and safe food handling practices, visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website at www.inspection.gc.ca