AMES, Iowa – When the electricity has been out for several hours or longer, Iowans rightly wonder whether the food in their refrigerators and freezers is still safe to eat, note food safety and nutrition and wellness specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Angela Shaw, Anirudh Naig, and Shannon Coleman want Iowans to know some key considerations for safely handling these food items.
Shaw is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. Naig is a food safety state specialist and associate professor in the ISU Department of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management. Coleman is an assistant professor and nutrition and wellness state specialist in the ISU Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. They share the following information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, refrigerated or frozen foods may not be safe to eat after a power outage. CDC recommendations include these four points:
- Never taste food to determine if food is “safe to eat.” When in doubt, throw it out.
- Throw out perishable foods in your refrigerator after four hours without power. This includes meats, fish, cut fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, leftovers, and any foods that have been prepared for a meal. Throw away foods with unusual odors, color, or textures.
- Check the temperature of the food kept in coolers or refrigerators with a cold source. Throw out food above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If the appliance thermometer in your freezer is still at 40 F or below, you can safely refreeze or cook thawed frozen food. The thawed food must contain ice crystals or be at 40 F or below.
For more information, see the following sources:
- CDC: Food Safety for Power Outages (https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/food-safety-during-a-power-outage.html)
- USDA: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/emergency-preparedness/keeping-food-safe-during-an-emergency/CT_Index)
- FDA: Food and Water Safety During Power Outages and Floods (https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods)