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.
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
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
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
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
custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies
precut, prewashed or packaged greens
opened vegetable juice
commercial garlic in oil
If held above 40 degrees for more than two hours, these foods are safe:
hard cheeses cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano
grated parmesan, romano or combinations (in can or jar)
opened fruit juices or canned fruits
fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates
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
fresh mushrooms, herbs
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)
casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses
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:
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.