Diann Douglas: Keep Food Safe When The Power Goes OutAug 22nd, 2013 | By Jacob | Category: Editorials
Summer thunder storms can often bring more than rain and you may find yourself without power for several hours. Let’s not forget too, we are in the hurricane season and storms can leave us without power for a long period of time. Any loss of power can jeopardize the safety of your food. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA has guidelines for consumers facing a power outage. Be prepared for an emergency by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on an outdoor grill. Shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods should be part of a planned emergency food supply. Make sure you have ready-to-use baby formula for infants and pet food. Remember to use these items and replace them from time to time. Be sure to keep a hand-held can opener for an emergency. Consider what you can do ahead of time to store your food safely in an emergency. If you live in a location that could be affected by a flood, plan your food store on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water. Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours – have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When you freezer is not full, keep items close together – this helps the food stay cold longer. Always keep meat, poultry, fish and eggs refrigerated at or below 40° F and frozen food at or below 0° F. This may be difficult when the power is out. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours; if it is half full it will keep for 24 hours if the door remains closed. Digital, dial or instant-read food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. It is a good idea to keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer at all times, so if you don’t have one, get one your next shopping trip. When the power is out, an appliance thermometer will always indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer no matter how long the power has been out. When food reaches temperatures above 40° F and stays at those temperatures for over two hours, it should be discarded. All meat, poultry, seafood, egg and dairy products needs to go. Even salad dressings, opened jars of spaghetti sauce and Worcestershire sauce should be disgarded. Fresh fruit and vegetables are safe, but cooked versions are not. It’s hard to part with food, but as the saying goes, “When in doubt, throw it out!” The University of Florida Extension – Madison County is an Equal Employment Opportunity Institution.