By JOAN YOUNCE
County Extension Director
Based on this week’s storms, this information should be kept handy for future reference. Most home refrigerators and freezers stop running at least once during their lifetimes. Whether due to a power outage or a broken appliance, a power failure brings with it the risk of food spoilage.
Bacteria are present all around us – on our bodies, in food and on cooking utensils. In small amounts these bacteria are harmless. In large numbers, these bacteria may cause food poisoning. At temperatures below freezing, most bacteria that cause foodborne illness survive, but do not grow. Refrigeration at 40F or below allows only slow growth of bacteria. As the storage temperature of perishable food rises above 40F, the rate of bacterial growth increases. After these foods are left more than two hours above 40F, there is a strong chance that the number of bacteria has risen to a level which can cause food poisoning. The information below will help you keep food safe longer and evaluate the safety of foods affected by a power failure.
How do I keep my food frozen?
Once the freezer fails, the length of time food in it will stay frozen depends on:
1. The amount of food in the freezer. A full freezer, if not opened, will stay cold enough to keep food frozen for about two days, even in the summer. In a freezer that is half full, food will stay frozen for only one day.
2. The kind of food in the freezer. Foods which have a higher water content will stay frozen longer. For example, a freezer full of meat will not warm as quickly as a freezer full of bread.
3. The temperature of the food before the power failure. The colder the food, the longer it will stay frozen. Keep your freezer set at 0F or lower.
4. Freezer insulation. A well-insulated freezer will keep food frozen much longer than one with little insulation.
5. Size of the freezer. The larger the freezer, the longer the food will stay frozen.
Other tips to reduce loss of frozen food include:
1. Keeping the freezer door closed.
2. Placing food outdoors if the temperature is below 0F.
3. Covering the freezer with blankets or quilts. Be sure to pin or fasten the covering so the air vent openings are not blocked. The power may return without warning.