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Frozen Food After A Power Blackout

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HOW SAFE IS YOUR FROZEN FOOD AFTER A POWER FAILURE?

There is always the threat of a widespread power outage during the summer because demand for electricity can exceed the supply here in the Southwest. Let's face it -- it gets hot here. Recently we've had plenty of days with 100+ degrees. There were also failures of the electric grid in the Long Beach, California area that kept homes in the dark for several days. One concern we all have is for our frozen foods kept in freezers. How safe is it after a power failure?

WHAT THE FOOD POLICE SAY ABOUT FROZEN FOOD SAFETY

Update August 18, 2015  The United States Depart of Agriculture (USDA) is the food police and they have the rules and regulations and consumer guidelines for safely using our food, including consumer guidelines for keeping our frozen foods after a power blackout.

The general rule is simply this according to the USDA: Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40-degrees Fahrenheit or below. Patial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.

The USDA also suggests that you keep a thermometer in your freezer so that it's easy to tell whether your food is safe for consumption or refreezing.  "When the power comes back on," says the USDA, "check the thermometer. If it reads 40-degrees Fahrenheit or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen."

That is good advice but what if you are not at home when the power goes out -- and more importantly when the power comes back on? How will you know, for example, that the food temperature didn't rise to an unsafe level and then when the power came back on it refroze? Certainly if the temperature reached an unsafe level the refrozen food could be dangerous.

Is there a simple way to determine if the power was out in your freezer for too long? Yes there is. I call it the ice cube test. Simply have an ice cube on a dish in your freezer and after a blackout or power outage check the condition of the ice cube. If it still looks like an ice cube it means the temperature in your freezer never rose to unsafe levels. But if you discover a frozen puddle on the dish you will know that the freezer reached a temperature that was too high and then when the power came back on your food refroze -- but might no longer be safe to consume.

The USDA says never to taste food to determine it's safety. Food might taste good and even smell good might it might be unsafe to eat. And if any of the foods in your refrigerator come in contact with raw meat juices -- those foods should be discarded immediately.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt should never be refrozen and should be discarded. Frankly, I hate when ice crystals form in ice cream and if there is any sign of any melting it probably won't taste good. I'm picky when it comes to ice cream.

FOOD IN YOUR REFRIGERATOR

We should also be concerned about the safety of our food in a refrigerator during and after a power blackout. The USDA says your refrigerated food "should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours." During a power outage you should keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible and again a thermometer for your refrigerator will be helpful because the USDA says to "discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been about 40-degrees Fahrenheit for over 2 hours."

DOUBLE CHECK THE SEAL ON YOUR APPLIANCES
 
Remember that your food will last longer and you will save energy and save on your food budget if you have tight seals on your refrigerator and freezer doors. I suggest the "dollar bill test." Close the appliance door with a dollar bill about half-way inside the appliance. Then pull out the dollar bill and if it comes out too easily the seal is not tight and cold air and your money are escaping. If the bill is tightly held by the door seals then the seals are tight and you are holding on to cold air and your money.

REFRIGERATED FOODS THAT ARE SAFE AFTER A 2-HOURS POWER FAILURE

The USDA identifies some foods that are still safe after a power failure lasting more than 2-hours in which the temperature of the refrigerator exceeds 40-degrees. These "safe foods" include: hard cheeses, processed cheeses, butter and margarine, opened fruit juices and canned fruits, many common fresh fruits, peanut butter, breads, rolls and muffins, and raw vegetables that you had in your refrigerator.

PRINT THIS PAGE

If a power failure occurs, you will probably not be able to get to your computer to check the information here -- so print this page and keep a copy on the side of your refrigerator door. Even cell phones could go out in a power emergency.

Here on our new media website "Moneyman" Alan Mendelson who is the original Best Deals TV Show reporter on KCAL9 and consumer advocate, shows you the best deals on TV, and the best buys, bargains and where savvy shoppers go to save, and how to get the most for "your money" with the best of Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura County, Riverside County and San Bernardino County. Some content on www.alanbestbuys.com is paid advertising. The Best Buys TV Show is a paid infomercial program which may also include news and information which is not sponsored or paid for by advertisers.

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