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Keep your food safe during a power outage

Tammy Roberts, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Open refrigeratorWhen the electricity goes off, one important thing to know is how to save as much food as possible.


The first key, according to Tammy Roberts, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, is to keep the doors of the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible to keep the cool air inside.


“Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator so you can monitor the temperature when you do open the door. Food is considered to be in the danger zone once the refrigerator temperature goes above 40 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Roberts.


Discard foods that have been above 40 degrees for more than two hours.


Protein-containing foods such as raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, eggs and egg substitutes, and soft cheeses are most at risk for illness-causing bacteria growth.


Another option is to add dry ice to the freezer to maintain cold temperatures. Just keep in mind that dry ice is -216 degrees so it must be handled carefully (and with gloves).


Roberts says to allow three pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of freezer space and to not let the dry ice come in direct contact with the food.


“If you have an upright freezer then dry ice should be placed on each shelf. If you have a large amount of empty space, fill the space with clean blankets or towels to decrease circulation. Air circulation speeds up dissipation of dry ice,” said Roberts.


Generally, food can stay frozen in the freezer one to three days without electricity. Foods in the freezer can be re-frozen if they still have ice crystals present.


“When you re-freeze those foods, move them to the top to be used first. Thawed foods that have not reached danger zone temperatures can be cooked and then frozen,” said Roberts.


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Last update: Monday, April 07, 2014