When a power outage occurs, food safety becomes a
concern. Do not panic - in warm weather, foods will stay frozen for at
least two days in a fully stocked freezer and foods in your refrigerator
will stay cold for at least four to six hours. Without heat and depending
on the length of time the power is off, you will need to assess the
situation using common food safety rules. When
in doubt, do not eat suspicious food.
Re-entering Home After a Flood
Foods | Refrigerator
| Odor Problems |
Food Safety Info (PDF, 195 KB)
Home After a Flood
not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any
chance that it has come into contact with flood water.
commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the can labels,
wash the cans, and then disinfect them with a solution consisting of
six ounces of bleach to one gallon of water. Re-label your cans,
including the expiration date, with a marker.
containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop
bottles), twist caps, flip tops, and home canned foods should be
discarded if they have come into contact with flood water because they
cannot be disinfected.
infants, use ONLY pre-prepared canned baby formula that requires no
added water, rather than powdered formulas prepared with treated
your refrigerator or freezer has been without power for a period of
time, all stored items should be carefully checked. Perishable food
left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded.
Frozen foods that have thawed should be discarded if not consumed
immediately or kept refrigerated.
Other questions you may have can be directed to your local
health agency or extension agent.
As soon as the freezer is operating again, check the
frozen foods to see if any have thawed. It is essential to check the foods
at this time before they refreeze. If any foods have developed an
off-odor, discard them. For foods that have thawed, use the following
guidelines for specific foods.
Meat and Poultry (raw):
Refreeze if ice crystals are still present. Fully
thawed meats or poultry that are still cold and that have no off-odors or
signs of spoilage can be cooked and eaten or refrozen after cooking. Such
thawed meats or poultry could be canned (with a pressure cooker) if
alternate frozen storage is not available and if the freezer is likely to
be inoperable for several days.
Fish and Shellfish:
Refreeze if ice crystals are still present. If fish
or shellfish is fully thawed and has been at refrigerator temperature
(40oF) no longer than 24 hours, it can be cooked and eaten. Discard thawed
seafood that has been held longer than 24 hours.
Cooked meats, Poultry, Fish and Casseroles:
Do not refreeze. If Ice crystals are still present,
these foods may be eaten. If the food is fully thawed discard it.
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Fruits and Vegetables:
Refreeze if ice crystals are still present. If fully
thawed, but still cold, check for off-odors. Fruits ferment quickly and
while they will not be unsafe, the flavor will be affected. They may be
used for jams, jellies and other cooked purposes.
Vegetables undergo flavor changes rapidly and may
develop s sour odor. Fully thawed vegetables that do not look or smell
unusual can be cooked and then refrozen.
These foods can be safely refrozen, but may be
Ice Cream, Other frozen desserts:
Discard if thawed.
Refreeze foods as quickly as possible by setting the
freezer to its coldest temperature. Re-label all foods so you know that
they have been refrozen and try to use them within two or three months.
While foods refrozen according to the guidelines will be safe to eat, they
will be lower in quality because of loss of color, flavor, texture and
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Foods in a refrigerator will stay cold at least four
to six hours after a power failure. The length of time depends on how warm
the surrounding area is. Some foods stored in the refrigerator can be
safely held at room temperature for a few days. These include salad
dressings, catsup, mustard, barbeque sauces, jams and jellies, margarine,
butter, pickles, fruits and vegetables.
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If food has been allowed to spoil in a refrigerator,
a strong odor may be difficult to remove. After cleaning with a gentle
cleaning solution and warm water, or a bleach solution (1 teaspoon
household chlorine bleach per quart of water), leave the unit unplugged
wit the door open for a day or two to air out. If the odor still remains,
try one or more of the following methods.
Place trays of freshly ground coffee, clean cat
litter, baking soda or activated charcoal on the shelves of the
refrigerator or freezer. Run the refrigerator or freezer empty for two or
Pack each refrigerator or freezer shelf with
crumpled newspaper. Set a cup of water on the top shelf or sprinkle the
newspaper with water. Allow the refrigerator or freezer to run for about
five or six days. This method takes longer, but can be effective in
removing strong odors.
Try using commercial cleaning products made
especially for removing refrigerator and freezer odors. These products may
be available at hardware, grocery, discount and variety stores.
If odor has seeped into the insulation, spray
disinfectant around hinges and locks, and into any other openings. If the
odor fails to go away, the insulation may need to be replaced.
Additional information about food
(PDF, 195 KB) is available.
For more information contact the UW Extension Office
in your county.
For more information, contact your local utility or Local
Public Health Department.
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Coping With Disaster
July 16, 2014