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When food enters the temperature danger zone – between 40°F and 140°F – habitable environments are created for harmful bacteria, which increases the likelihood of foodborne illnesses. While you may not be able to salvage all your food, there are ways to keep it cold during an outage.
Appliance thermometers: In the event of a power outage, you cannot rely on an internal thermometer. Purchase an appliance thermometer to monitor your freezer and refrigerator temperatures. Your freezer temperature should be at or below 0°F, while your refrigerator should be at or below 40°F. Once the power is restored, the food is safe if the temperatures remained within the appropriate ranges.
Freeze water and food: Freezing containers of water will provide additional temperature control. Preserve perishable items such as raw meats and cooked foods by freezing them before the outage.
Dry ice or block ice: According to the FDA, fifty pounds of dry ice will keep a fully stocked 18-cubic-foot freezer cold for two days. That's about 2.5 to 3 pounds per cubic foot. Learn how to calculate your freezer size in cubic feet. Dry ice can be purchased at your local grocery store, though in the event of an outage, it will sell out quickly.
Coolers: If your fridge contents are sparse, transfer your food to a cooler with block ice or dry ice. A smaller space holds food closer together and retains a lower temperature.
During the power outage, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened fridge door will keep food cold for about four hours; a closed freezer door will keep food cold for 48 hours.
When your power is restored, you'll want to carefully inspect all your food. Discard any food that has been held above 40°F for more than two hours, or above 90°F for more than an hour. Thawed meats and frozen items should also be discarded. The best advice: when in doubt, throw it out. Food safety is of utmost importance as food-borne illnesses can be life-threatening.
Creating an emergency plan will allow you to act quickly and decisively. Does your family have a plan? Get started today with these ways to prepare for an emergency.
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