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When to throw out food in refrigerator, freezer after power outage

Crisper Drawer: What To Store In This Part Of Your Fridge
Posted at 4:26 PM, Feb 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-27 17:47:33-05

(WXYZ) — Monday’s wintery weather could lead to more power outages and that could mean trouble if you have a fridge that’s packed full of food.

It’s been a tough week for some folks. I know several patients that still don’t have power. Now, one of the downsides of power outages is figuring out what to do with all the food in your fridge and freezer.

If you’re lucky and the power is restored within four hours, the food should be fine, assuming you didn’t open the door too often.

But if you’re one of the unlucky ones and your power outage last four hours or more, then it’s time to start tossing some food in the fridge, especially perishable items like fish, meats, poultry, eggs and shredded and soft cheeses, as well as dairy products with the exception of butter or margarine.

Now, the good news is that your frozen foods will last longer. If your freezer is full, food will keep for approximately 48 hours. If it’s half full, then you have about 24 hours. Just be sure not to open the door.

Once your power is back on, some frozen foods that have thawed can be refrozen. But feel them first and make sure they’re cold and contain ice crystals. And the temperature should not be above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If it is and it’s been longer than two hours, then most of your items will need to be tossed. A few exceptions are hard cheese, bread, flour and some breakfast products like waffles, pancakes and bagels.

The reason to throw out food is because of germs. If your fridge’s temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then bacteria like salmonella, E. coli and C. botulinum can grow. And they can grow quite rapidly between 40 degrees and 140 degrees. That’s what’s called the “danger zone.”

Those germs can make us sick and cause foodborne illness. People can suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body aches.

Older adults that are 65 and up are most at risk of severe illness. Unfortunately, nearly half that get sick end up hospitalized.

So that’s why it’s essential to store food properly. Also, never taste food to decide if it’s good or not. Stick to that famous saying, “When in doubt, throw it out!” Lastly, if anyone gets sick, please see your family doctor or health care provider.