Emergency Preparedness Tip: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART II

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Making Cold Last

In Part I of this emergency preparedness tip, we discussed how to prep your refrigerator and freezer “before” a power outage by “making more cold” to extend the safe storage of food. In this concluding part, we’ll cover the “after” — what you should do when you lose power.

When you lose power

zaa13769You don’t have to go without power! A permanently installed Kohler home generator produces premium power quality with ultra-low levels of harmonic distortion, protecting even the most sophisticated electronics in your home.

However, if you don’t have a home generator and experience an outage, you should unplug electronics, including the refrigerator and freezer, to protect them from surges when power is restored from the utility grid.

Then you have an option: you can leave food in the fridge or, if you have any space, you can quickly move food that must be chilled – such as milk, meat and eggs — to the freezer.

Either way, keep the doors of both closed as much as possible. This is a good time to teach the family how easy it is to “lose cold” and to pre-visualize what they need to retrieve before opening the refrigerator or freezer door.

You can also wrap your fridge or freezer with blankets or moving pads to add another layer of insulation.

Your refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened. While your freezer will keep food safely cold for about 48 hours if it’s full and unopened, or 24 hours if it’s only half full and unopened. Food must be stored at a temperature of 40° or less. So if the outage is relatively short, your food will be fine.

Those coolers that you purchased and “made cold” in PART I come into play if the outage lasts more than a couple of hours. As your food approaches 40° re-pack the perishables in your fridge into coolers with plenty of ice — those ice blocks you made.

If the outage persists, you’ll do the same with the food in your freezer. Transfer your thermometers! Pack everything tight. When possible, put ice on top of the food: cold air sinks.

If you have a source to replenish ice, you’re essentially camping and can really extend food storage. And dry ice is another option, though an uncommon one that requires special handling and consideration — venting, for example — and deserves a separate post.

Is your food safe?

aaa68795 copyTrust your thermometers, not your sense of smell. And never taste food to see if it’s O.K. — no sense in being your own (sick) guinea pig! The goal here is to keep all perishable food below 40°F.

You cannot safely eat food that has been above 40° for more than two hours. Period. You can still consume or re-freeze frozen foods if ice crystals are present throughout the package, though raw meat and poultry should be cooked before refreezing as a precaution. Fish and shellfish should not be refrozen.

If despite your good efforts you cannot maintain food storage below 40° or if you are unsure of the safety of any food, “when in doubt, throw it out” applies. Be ruthless with this principle — it easily beats becoming ill!

One final tip that might be counterintuitive: when you experience an outage, one really smart move is to sit down and have a good meal while perishables remain fresh.

Or take those burgers out to the grill — if conditions allow you to do so safely! You’ll reduce the volume of food that needs refrigeration, and you won’t have to worry later about whether they’re safe to eat.


Know your foods

Be especially cautious with the following foods that are often implicated with food-borne illnesses:

  • raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood and luncheon meats
  • casseroles, stews or soups
  • milk and soft cheeses
  • homemade mayonnaise or dressings
  • cooked pasta, potatoes or rice
  • salads made with any of these foods

The following foods can be stored above 40°F for several days:

  • butter and margarine
  • hard or processed cheeses
  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • mustard, ketchup, olives
  • salad dressings (non-dairy)
  • peanut butter
  • BBQ sauce
  • jams and jellies



American Red Cross




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2 Responses to “Emergency Preparedness Tip: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART II”

  1. frost-frigobar
    January 29, 2014 at 6:01 am #

    Keep clean your fridge, Recycling the waste electronic goods are the best thing for Eco friendly health. Many of people in the world don’t have food than stop waste your food keep in fridge for fresh and healthy for later uses.

    Thanks and Regards,
    frost-frigobar(dot)com Italy


  1. Emergency Preparedness Tip: Are your perishables safe to eat? – PART I | The Kohler Home Generators Blog - September 4, 2013

    […] It’s very important to remember that during an outage, most of your food is only safe to eat after a limited amount of time. A thermometer is the safest way to determine if food can be saved — or eaten. You’ll learn more about this later in: Are Your Perishables Safe to Eat? – PART II. […]