Prevent Illness from Food and Water After a Power Outage

(LITTLE ROCK–) Officials at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) say that refrigerated food may be unsafe to eat after a relatively short period of time. According to Raymond Heaggans, Regional Food Specialist, food left in a refrigerator above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for six to seven hours can be unsafe and should be discarded.

“So many people are without power right now, we are concerned about food safety,” Heaggans said.  “We are recommending that folks leave refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible and put refrigerated foods under block ice or dry ice in their refrigerators or freezers if the electricity is expected to be off longer than 2 hours.”

When the power goes out, there are some guidelines you can follow to keep foods safe.

Some of these guidelines are:

·        Keep the freezer door closed as much as possible.  Without power, a full upright or chest type freezer will keep food frozen for about two days.  A half-full freezer will  keep food frozen for one day.  If your freezer is not full, group packages together so that they protect each other by contact.  Place them to one side or on a tray to prevent juices from getting onto other foods if they thaw.  Be sure to separate raw meats from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination from juices if thawing occurs.

·        In general, refrigerated foods should be safe as long as the power is out for no longer than four hours, depending on the room temperature.  Keep the door closed as much as possible.  Discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers that have been above 40 degrees F. for more than four hours.  Dispose of any foods that have signs of spoilage, such as off-odor, off-color, or off-texture, or any food that feels warm to the touch.

·        Be sure to discard any fully cooked items in the refrigerator or freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

·        Frozen foods that have partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if they still contain ice crystals, are cold (35-45 degrees F.), and have been held no longer than one or two days at refrigerator temperature.

·        Thawed raw meats can be refrozen if still firm with ice crystals.  Meat that has been thawed but remains below 40 degrees F. can be cooked, if alternative means of cooking are available, provided they are cooked to proper temperatures.  Once

cooked these should not be  refrozen.

·        Previously cooked food mixtures such as casseroles, pot pies, entrée dinners, or pizza which have thawed but have not been above 40 degrees for more than two hours can be reheated provided an alternate heating source is available. These should be reheated to 165 degrees F. for 15 seconds within two hours. Once reheated, these should not be refrozen.

·        Melted ice cream, cream pies or similar high moisture foods containing dairy products or eggs should not be refrozen.  They should be discarded.

·        Vegetables may be refrozen only if they contain ice crystals and have a firm to hard core in the center.  Previously cooked vegetable that have thawed should be discarded.

·        Unfrosted cakes, uncooked fruit pies, breads, rolls, and similar bakery products can be re-frozen, however, this may affect their quality (taste, appearance, and smell).

For additional information about food safety, contact the Arkansas Department of Health at 1-800-651-3493 or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at: .