Recent power outages, coupled with the extreme heat, raise questions about whether food in refrigerators and freezers was safe to keep.
If your power was out just a few hours and you didn’t open the refrigerator or freezer, chances are the food is OK. A refrigerator should keep food cold for four hours and a half-full freezer 24 hours (48 hours if the freezer is full) if you don’t open the doors, according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
Here’s a clip-and-save checklist gleaned from fsis.usda.gov to have handy next time the power goes out.
• Try not to open the refrigerator and freezer doors (doing so lets the cold air escape).
• If you know the power will be out for an extended period, get ice or dry ice to keep foods cold.
• Use a refrigerator-freezer thermometer to check the temperature.
• In either the refrigerator or freezer, if the temperature is 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.
• Check the packages. If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below when checked with a food thermometer, you can refreeze it.
• Group foods together in the freezer to help them stay cold longer.
• Keep food on ice in coolers.
• Never taste food to determine whether it’s safe.
What to toss
Bacteria growth can take place when these foods have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more:
• Meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, yogurt, eggs, leftovers, hot dogs, bacon, lunch meats, pizza, shredded cheeses, casseroles, pasta and pasta sauces.
• Cream-based salad dressings, sauces and soups.
• Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish.
• Pasta salads with creamy or mayonnaise-based dressings.
• Sour cream-based dips.
• Fruits and vegetables that have become slimy or spoiled.
What to keep
• Condiments, such as ketchup, mustard, jelly, jams, soy sauce and bottled marinade. Typically, these have high salt and sugar content that can act as a preservative.
• Fresh bread and rolls.
• Fruits and vegetables that show no signs of decay.
The best rule to follow: “When in doubt, throw it out.”