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Dietitian's Dish: Food safety after power outage

Aug. 1, 2011 at 3:01 a.m.
Updated Aug. 2, 2011 at 3:02 a.m.


By Jami MartinAs Gulf waters become more active, thoughts of hurricane preparedness are in the back of our minds.

To ensure you have food and water for five to seven days, radio, flashlights, fuel, etc., is important.

But do you know what to do to keep foods at safe temperatures during a power outage and what is safe to keep once the power is back on?

First of all, if the power goes out, keep doors to appliances like your refrigerator and freezers closed as much as possible to limit cold temperatures from escaping.

Safe temperatures can remain for:

Four hours in a refrigerator

24 hours in a half full freezer

48 hours in a full freezer

Dry ice can be used to help keep temperatures in safe zone:

A 50-pound block can keep foods safe for two days.

Find out where to purchase dry ice ahead of time.

Secondly, ensure all foods that have been in contact with meat juices are discarded.

Determine if foods remain safe to keep.

From the refrigerator: When power has been out for no longer than four hours most foods can be saved if temperature did not rise above 40 degrees for more than two hours.

All foods should be discarded after two hours with exception of:

Hard, processed, and grated Parmesan/Romano cheeses, butter or margarine, open fruit juice or canned fruit, coconut, peanut butter, jelly, some condiments and sauces (Worcestershire, taco sauce, mustard, soy sauce, barbecue sauces, hoisin sauces and catsup), olives, pickles, bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, tortillas, waffles, pancakes, bagels, fruit pie, mushrooms, raw vegetables, fresh herbs and spices.

Mayonnaise kept up to eight hours at 50 degrees.

From the freezer: Some foods may be saved and refrozen if ice crystals are present or if temperature has not risen above 40 degrees.

Foods that remain with ice crystals and feel as cold as refrigerated foods can be refrozen except ice cream.

Foods should be discarded if held above 40 degrees for two hours except:

Hard cheese, bread, muffins, cakes without custard filling, flour, corn meal and nuts.

Vegetable juice kept up to six hours.

Note: The quality of food items is affected, but they will be safe to eat.

Inexpensive items to invest in to ensure your appliances are at proper temperatures all the time:

Refrigerator thermometer

Freezer thermometer

Food thermometer

Remember knowledge is power when it comes to keeping your family safe this hurricane season (or anytime you may lose power to your refrigerator or freezer).

For additional information on refrigeration and freezer storage charts after a power outage, visit foodsafety.gov and select, "keep foods safe," and then select, "in an emergency."

Jami Martin is a registered and licensed dietitian. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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