Editor's note: Tracy Schmidt's Living Ready Online Course on food preservation and garden planning will hit the Living Ready Store later this month. Be on the watch for it, it's full of great information.
Food Safety Tips During Blackouts
The lights go out. The refrigerator and freezer stop humming. You think of the critical survival food storage items in the freezer that you spent a year preserving.
How long can the power be out before your food becomes bad? How do you know how to tell food that has spoiled from food that is okay? Is there anything you can do to help save those perishables stocked in emergency food storage? Will it be safe to cook food that has been thawed?
Food Safety Tips: Get Prepared Right Now
Don't wait until a blackout to think about these things. Being prepared doesn't cost much. You'll need…
- These food safety fact sheets printed out and stored in the kitchen
- A meat thermometer (best if it doesn't need batteries to work)
- An appliance thermometer
- If you want to take things to the next level, invest in a high quality cooler, such as a nearly indestructible, super-insulated Icey-Tek cooler. It's not cheap, but it can go a long way with emergency food storage, as well as keeping cold medicines cool.
Food Safety Tips: Trust Your Senses, but Listen to the Experts
I personally follow the food safety tips provided by the USDA and the USFDA. Here are several food safety considerations that should be followed when evaluating food.
Never taste any food you have any doubt about. It is not worth the risk…throw it out.
Do not open any canning jars or other sealed packages from your emergency food storage plan that show signs of spoilage. They also must be thrown out.
Use a food thermometer and/or appliance thermometer to evaluate whether your food is at a safe temperature: zero degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer and 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the refrigerator.
Remember that how a food looks, smells or tastes may not indicate if it is safe or not to consume. It's good to trust your senses, but don't follow them outside recommended guidelines.
Add block ice to your freezer if needed to help keep the temperature down. This is a good idea for survival food storage anyway. It cuts down on energy costs.
According to www.FoodSafety.gov, “food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.”
Food Safety Tips: Refreezing Food
The first steps to take in evaluating food for refreezing is to wait until the power comes on, then check the temperature using an appliance thermometer. If it is 40 degrees or colder, then you can then refreeze it.
It is important to remember when refreezing any food that it may be safe to eat, but the quality of the food will likely be impacted by any degree of thawing. You spent a lot of time building a survival food storage plan, and the temptation is to keep what you can, but remember that your health must always come first.
On the Next Page: Resetting Your Survival Food Storage Plan
Food Safety Tips: Resetting Your Survival Food Storage Plan
The following food safety guidelines apply to food that comes from the freezer and refrigerator. Keep in mind that if it has been over 40 degrees for two hours or more, it must be discarded if it is meat, poultry, seafood, dairy (except hard cheese), casserole, frozen convenience food, cakes and pies.
Foods that can be refrozen if left out for longer are: flour, fruits that do show signs of spoilage, pie crusts, bread dough and hard cheeses. Vegetables can be refrozen if thawed and left out for up to six hours at above 40 degrees. Be sure to carefully check over any refrozen food for signs of slime, yeast or mold.
Now go back to just the freezer side of the guidelines. If your food still has ice crystals in it and has stayed at a temperature 40 degrees or less it can be refrozen. Here are some good foods to refreeze keeping the former in mind: meat, poultry, seafood, casseroles, shredded cheese, fruit juices, vegetables, cakes, pies and frozen convenience foods. Keep those in mind while designing your emergency food storage plan in the first place.
According to the USDA, an unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours and a full freezer for about 48 hours. If you need to cook food that is still at a safe temperature make sure you cook it fully to the following recommended minimum internal temperature:
- Beef, pork, veal and lamb muscle cuts: Cook to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes so the temperature becomes even. Ground meats should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher internally.
- Poultry, leftovers and casseroles need to be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Fish needs to be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe.
If you made it to the end of this article, you're already better prepared to eat food safer during and after a blackout. To recap, have a meat thermometer, an appliance thermometer and these food safety tip sheets printed out ahead of time. It's also a good idea to have an understanding of this information before making an emergency food storage plan.
Have you ever had to sort through food after a blackout? Have any food safety tips to share of your own? Leave a comment below.