Food safety - power cuts

Food safety following floods

Food that is not in waterproof, sealed containers and that has been affected by floodwaters should not be eaten.  Please dispose of it carefully so that other people do not eat it.

Food safety in a power cut

Sudden power cuts are frustrating and troublesome especially when they are prolonged. There are the immediate problems of cooking, lighting and heating.  Cold showers are very unappealing in the middle of winter. 

We often forget about the food stored away in our refrigerator and freezer.  If these foods warm up to above 5 degrees Celsius they can become unpleasant to eat and even make us very sick. 

What can you do to protect the food in your refrigerator and freezer during a power cut and how do you know what is safe to eat?

Protecting the food in your refrigerator and freezer during a power cut

The first advice is to not open the door of the refrigerator or freezer.  Make sure you tell everyone in the house including the children.  It might be a good idea to hang a big notice on the door to remind everyone. 

An unopened refrigerator will keep your food cool for at least 2 hours.  A freezer that is half full will be okay for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours.

How do you know what is safe to eat?

Once food reaches the temperature of 5 degrees Celsius or above for more than 2 hours it greatly increases the risk of growth by microorganisms that can cause illness.  Do not use frozen food that has thawed or refrigerated food that has warmed up.

The only exceptions to this are butter/margarine, hard cheeses, raw eggs (still in eggshells), fruit and vegetables.

The rule of thumb is “if in doubt, throw it out”.

How to know if frozen food is safe to eat during a power cut

 

Frozen meat and fish Still contains ice crystals.  Kept under 5 degrees C Thawed, held above 5 degrees C for over 2 hours
Meat Refreeze or immediately use Throw out
Chicken  Refreeze or immediately use Throw out
Casseroles, stews, soups, pizza, sausage rolls Refreeze or immediately use Throw out
Fish or shellfish   Refreeze or immediately use Throw out

 

 

Frozen dairy products Still contains ice crystals.  Kept under 5 degrees C Thawed, held above 5 degrees C for over 2 hours
Ice cream Throw out Throw out
Frozen yoghurt Throw out Throw out
Milk Refreeze or immediately use Throw out

 

 

Frozen baked products Still contains ice crystals.  Kept under 5 degrees C Thawed, held above 5 degrees C for over 2 hours
Bread Refreeze or use Throw out if above 10 degrees C for over 8 hours
Muffins and cakes (no custard filling)   Refreeze or use Throw out if above 10 degrees C for over 8 hours
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard filling, cheesecake Refreeze or immediately use Throw out

 

 

Frozen fruit and vegetables Still contains ice crystals.  Kept under 5 degrees C Thawed, held above 5 degrees C for over 2 hours
Fruit Refreeze or use Refreeze.  Throw out if mould, yeasty smell or sliminess develops.
Vegetables Refreeze or use Throw out if above 10 degrees C for over 8 hours

 

The rule of thumb is “if in doubt throw it out”.

Hygiene

Maintaining hygiene around food preparation and cooking requires more thought than normal during a power cut:

  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Throw out cooked food if it can not be refrigerated or eaten immediately.
  • Always wash and dry your hands before preparing food – if water is in short supply keep some in a bowl with disinfectant.