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South Orange News

Created: September 9, 2010
Updated: September 15, 2010

Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency

Did you know that a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power from high winds, snow, or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food? Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. This fact sheet will help you make the right decisions for keeping your family safe during an emergency.

ABCD’s of Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency

Always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. This may be difficult when the power is out.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

Be prepared for an emergency...

... by having items on hand that don’t require refrigeration and can be eaten cold or heated on the outdoor grill. Shelf-stable food, boxed or canned milk, water, and canned goods should be part of a planned emergency food supply. Make sure you have ready-to-use baby formula for infants and pet food. Remember to use these items and replace them from time to time. Be sure to keep a hand-held can opener for an emergency.

Consider what you can do ahead of time to store your food safely in an emergency. If you live in a location that could be affected by a flood, plan your food storage on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water. Coolers are a great help for keeping food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours—have a couple on hand along with frozen gel packs. When your freezer is not full, keep items close together—this helps the food stay cold longer.

Digital, dial, or instant-read food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. Keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer at all times. When the power is out, an appliance thermometer will always indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer no matter how long the power has been out. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 °F or below; the freezer, 0 °F or lower. If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a food thermometer.

Refrigerator FoodsWhen to Save and When to Throw It OutFOODHeld above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes

Discard
Thawing meat or poultryDiscard
Meat, tuna, shrimp,chicken, or egg saladDiscard
Gravy, stuffing, brothDiscard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beefDiscard
Pizza – with any toppingDiscard
Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated"Discard
Canned meats and fish, openedDiscard
CHEESE
Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco

Discard
Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, RomanoSafe
Processed CheesesSafe
Shredded CheesesDiscard
Low-fat CheesesDiscard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)Safe
DAIRY
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk

Discard
Butter, margarineSafe
Baby formula, openedDiscard
EGGS
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

Discard
Custards and puddingsDiscard
CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWSDiscard
FRUITS
Fresh fruits, cut

Discard
Fruit juices, openedSafe
Canned fruits, openedSafe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, datesSafe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish

Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
Peanut butterSafe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, picklesSafe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin saucesSafe
Fish sauces (oyster sauce)Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressingsSafe
Opened creamy-based dressingsDiscard
Spaghetti sauce, opened jarDiscard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES,PASTA, GRAINS
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas

Safe
Refrigerator biscuits,rolls, cookie doughDiscard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoesDiscard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigretteDiscard
Fresh pastaDiscard
CheesecakeDiscard
Breakfast foods –waffles, pancakes, bagelsSafe
PIES, PASTRY
Pastries, cream filled

Discard
Pies – custard,cheese filled, or chiffon; quicheDiscard
Pies, fruitSafe
VEGETABLES
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices

Safe
Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packagedDiscard
Vegetables, rawSafe
Vegetables, cooked; tofuDiscard
Vegetable juice, openedDiscard
Baked potatoesDiscard
Commercial garlic in oilDiscard
Potato SaladDiscard

Frozen Food

When to Save and When To Throw It OutFOODStill contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigeratedThawed.
Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats

Refreeze

Discard
Poultry and ground poultryRefreezeDiscard
Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)RefreezeDiscard
Casseroles, stews, soupsRefreezeDiscard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood productsRefreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss.Discard
DAIRY
Milk

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg productsRefreezeDiscard
Ice cream, frozen yogurtDiscardDiscard
Cheese (soft and semi-soft)Refreeze. May lose some texture.Discard
Hard cheesesRefreezeRefreeze
Shredded cheesesRefreezeDiscard
Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheesesRefreezeDiscard
CheesecakeRefreezeDiscard
FRUITS
Juices

Refreeze

Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
Home or commercially packagedRefreeze. Will change texture and flavor.Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
VEGETABLES
Juices

Refreeze

Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
Home or commercially packaged or blanchedRefreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss.Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
BREADS, PASTRIES
Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)

Refreeze

Refreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese fillingRefreezeDiscard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread doughRefreeze. Some quality loss may occur.Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
OTHER
Casseroles – pasta, rice based
RefreezeDiscard
Flour, cornmeal, nutsRefreezeRefreeze
Breakfast items –waffles, pancakes, bagelsRefreezeRefreeze
Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie,convenience foods)RefreezeDiscard