- Ada, Oklahoma

December 6, 2013

Food safety issue during power outages

Janna Kelley OSU Extension Educator

Ada — Some Pontotoc County residents may face power outages during this weekend’s winter event.

 Individuals and families could possibly be left without electricity for several days. In this event, residents may wonder what foods can still safely be consumed or refrozen and what things should be thrown out.

 Here are several tips for residents as they begin to deal with post-storm events.

 Most meat, poultry and seafood can be refrozen if the product still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as it if were refrigerated. If the meat has thawed and been held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours it should be discarded.

 Dairy products such as hard cheeses, milk, casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs or soft cheese and cheesecake can be refrozen as long as the foods still contain some ice crystals. If these products reach a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or more for more than two hours it is best to throw them away. The only exception is hard cheese such as cheddar, Swiss or parmesan.

 Fruits and vegetables typically can be refrozen as long as they have not been held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than six hours.

 Foods such as flour, cornmeal and nuts can be refrozen even if they have reached 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.

 During a storm emergency, foods can spoil in refrigerators and freezers because of the loss of electricity. Food spoilage can cause strong food odors to develop.

 To help eliminate odors, wash the interior walls of the freezer with a mixture of one cup vinegar and one gallon of water. Another option is to use one cup of household ammonia per gallon of water or one-half cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

 It’s important that you don’t mix any of these household chemicals because they can produce toxic fumes which may be fatal.

 All interior removable parts should be taken out and washed with mild soap and water. If odors persist, fill a shallow container with vinegar and set it in the freezer for several hours. This process may need to be repeated for several days in order to remove the odor. Change the vinegar every eight hours.

 There are other products designed to eliminate odors. Activated charcoal will absorb lingering odors. Fill a shallow ban with the charcoal and let it sit for several days. Once the odor disappears, rinse and dry the interior of the freezer before replacing the food.

 Extreme weather is difficult to deal with, and helping ensure your family is eating food that is safe for them is just one more thing you have to deal with in those circumstances. Anytime you have a question regarding the safety of the food that has been in your freezer following a power outage, you may be better off discarding it. When in doubt, throw it out.

 Additional information on storm-related management practices is available through the Pontotoc County Extension Office, located at 1700 N. Broadway or by calling 580-332-2153.

 Oklahoma State University, U. S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local governments cooperating.  Oklahoma State University in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal and state laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies, practices, or procedures, and is an equal opportunity employer.