Food safety - power cuts
Find out about food safety guidelines following a power cut and flood damage.
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°C||Thawed, held above 5°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°C||Thawed, held above 5°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°C||Thawed, held above 5°C for over 2 hours|
|Bread||Refreeze or use||Throw out if above 10°C for over 8 hours|
|Muffins and cakes (no custard filling)||Refreeze or use||Throw out if above 10°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°C||Thawed, held above 5°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°C for over 8 hours|
The rule of thumb is “if in doubt throw it out”.
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.