Tips to Keep Food Safe During Power Outages

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

With power outages likely during and after Hurricane Dorian, it is important to know how to keep food safe in your refrigerator and freezer for as long as possible, and when to throw away items.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends setting your freezer temperature at or below zero degrees and your refrigerator temperature at or below 40 degrees before storm conditions begin.

Before the storm:

Freeze containers of water in order to make ice that will help keep food cool.

Air-tight freezer bags should work as well, although you should make sure to store them on the bottom of the freezer, or in a shallow box or baking pan. Avoid putting bags of water on wire-rack shelves, as they could be difficult to remove after freezing.

If you have an ice maker, set it to make as much ice as possible. Also, freeze gel packs.

Since water expands as it turns into ice, make sure to not fill any container more than three-quarters.

Have coolers handy to store what you plan to eat or drink during an outage.

Buy dry ice or block ice if it is available in stores.

Freeze anything in your refrigerator that can handle freezing, such as milk, fresh meat and poultry and leftovers.

Arrange food items close together in the freezer so they stay cold longer.

During a power outage:

Keep the fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible in order to keep the temperature cold.

Food should be safe in a half-full freezer for up to 24 hours, and up to 48 hours, if the freezer is full.

After power is restored, check the freezer thermometer. If you do not have a freezer thermometer, check each package to determine its safety. If the food is 40 degrees or below or contains ice crystals, it is safe to cook or refreeze.

The refrigerator will typically keep food cold for about four hours if it remains unopened. If an outage lasts longer, move perishable items into coolers and surround them with ice, in order to keep the temperature at or below 40 degrees.

Perishable food, which includes meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen, could cause illness if consumed.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ foodsafety.gov site, items that you should throw away if they are exposed to temperatures greater than 40 degrees for more than two hours, include:

Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood, or soy meat substitutes. Lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, or dried beef

Soft cheeses such as cottage, cream, bleu, Roquefort, Brie, shredded cheeses, Monterey Jack, mozzerella, and ricotta

Fresh eggs or foods cooked with egg. Dairy products, including milk, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, soy milk, heavy cream, yogurt and eggnog

Opened baby formula, custard, puddings, quiche

Sliced fruits, cooked vegetables, tofu, pre-washed greens

Casseroles, soups, stews, potato salad, cheesecake, custard pie, refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough

Cooked pasta, fresh pasta, cooked rice, cooked potatoes

Fish sauces (oyster sauce), creamy-based dressings

Open mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and horseradish if above 50 degrees for more than eight hours

However, not all refrigerated foods need to be thrown away. Foods you can keep include:

Fresh mushrooms, fresh uncut vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices

Breads, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas

Opened vinegar-based dressings, Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, and hoisin sauces

Opened fruit juices, opened canned fruits, dried fruits, raisins, candied fruits, dates

Peanut butter, jelly, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles

On a related note, all Publix stores in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties are closed. Complete information is available here.

Remember to stay tuned to 850 WFTL for all the information you need before, during and after Hurricane Dorian.

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