Archive for Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Outages affect foods differently

Don’t rely on odor, appearance to judge items

February 6, 2002


After the power outage, which foods are safe to keep from the refrigerator and freezer?

First, let me clarify that these recommendations are for home food storage only. Food services must follow a different set of rules when it comes to the handling of thawed, uncooked food.

The key to determining the safety of foods in the home refrigerator and freezer is knowing how cold they are after the power outage. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees or below, the freezer 0 degrees or lower.

Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to the touch. Be sure to discard any fully cooked items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Don't rely on appearance or odor.

Never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they've been at room temperature too long, bacteria that cause food-borne illness can begin to grow rapidly. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking.

Here are some guidelines for specific foods.

Refrigerated foods

As long as the power has been out less than two hours, all foods will be safe.

If held above 40 degrees for more than two hours, these foods should be discarded:

fresh or leftover meat, poultry, fish or seafood

thawing meat or poultry

meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salad

gravy, stuffing

lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef

pizza with any topping

canned hams labeled "keep refrigerated"

opened canned meats

soft cheeses blue/bleu, Roquefort, brie, Camembert, colby, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel

shredded cheeses

low-fat cheeses

milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt

opened baby formula

fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

custards and puddings

casseroles, soups, stews

cut fresh fruits

opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish

white wine

fish (oyster), hoisin and Worcestershire sauces

opened cream-based dressings, spaghetti sauce and salsa

refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough

cooked pasta, spaghetti

pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette

fresh pasta


cream-filled pastries

custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies

precut, prewashed or packaged greens

cooked vegetables

opened vegetable juice

baked potatoes

commercial garlic in oil

potato salad

If held above 40 degrees for more than two hours, these foods are safe:

hard cheeses cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano

processed cheeses

grated parmesan, romano or combinations (in can or jar)

butter, margarine

opened fruit juices or canned fruits

fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates

peanut butter

jelly, relish, mustard, catsup, olives or taco, barbecue and soy sauce

opened vinegar-based dressings

bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads

breakfast foods waffles, pancakes, bagels

fruit pies

fresh mushrooms, herbs

raw vegetables

Frozen food

The foods in your freezer that partially or completely thaw before power is restored may be safely refrozen if they still contain ice crystals or are 40 degrees or below.

Evaluate each item separately. Be careful with meat and poultry products or any food containing milk, cream, sour cream or soft cheese. When in doubt, throw them out.

Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some foods. Raw meats and poultry from the freezer can usually be refrozen without too much quality loss.

Prepared foods, vegetables and fruits can normally be refrozen, but there may be some quality loss. Fruit juices can be refrozen safely without much quality loss, but frozen fruit will become mushy.

If the following foods have thawed and were held above 40 degrees for more than two hours, discard them:

beef, veal, lamb, pork and ground meats


variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)

casseroles, stews, soups

fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products


eggs (out of shell) and egg products

ice cream, frozen yogurt

cheese (soft and semisoft)

shredded cheeses

casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses


vegetable juices

home or commercially packaged or blanched vegetables

cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling

pasta- and rice-based casseroles

frozen meat, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods)

The following foods can be refrozen if mold, yeasty smell or sliminess has not developed:

hard cheeses

fruit juices

home or commercially packaged fruits

bread, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)

pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough

flour, cornmeal, nuts

breakfast items waffles, pancakes, bagels

Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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