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:
Â fresh or leftover meat, poultry, fish or seafood
Â thawing meat or poultry
Â meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken or egg salad
Â gravy, stuffing
Â lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef
Â pizza Â with any topping
Â canned hams labeled "keep refrigerated"
Â opened canned meats
Â soft cheeses Â blue/bleu, Roquefort, brie, Camembert, colby, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel
Â shredded cheeses
Â low-fat cheeses
Â milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt
Â opened baby formula
Â fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products
Â custards and puddings
Â casseroles, soups, stews
Â cut fresh fruits
Â opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish
Â white wine
Â fish (oyster), hoisin and Worcestershire sauces
Â opened cream-based dressings, spaghetti sauce and salsa
Â refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough
Â cooked pasta, spaghetti
Â pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette
Â fresh pasta
Â cream-filled pastries
Â custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies
Â precut, prewashed or packaged greens
Â cooked vegetables
Â opened vegetable juice
Â baked potatoes
Â commercial garlic in oil
Â potato salad
If held above 40 degrees for more than two hours, these foods are safe:
Â hard cheeses Â cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano
Â processed cheeses
Â grated parmesan, romano or combinations (in can or jar)
Â butter, margarine
Â opened fruit juices or canned fruits
Â fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates
Â peanut butter
Â jelly, relish, mustard, catsup, olives or taco, barbecue and soy sauce
Â opened vinegar-based dressings
Â bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads
Â breakfast foods Â waffles, pancakes, bagels
Â fruit pies
Â fresh mushrooms, herbs
Â raw vegetables
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:
Â beef, veal, lamb, pork and ground meats
Â variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)
Â casseroles, stews, soups
Â fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products
Â eggs (out of shell) and egg products
Â ice cream, frozen yogurt
Â cheese (soft and semisoft)
Â shredded cheeses
Â casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses
Â vegetable juices
Â home or commercially packaged or blanched vegetables
Â cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling
Â pasta- and rice-based casseroles
Â 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:
Â hard cheeses
Â fruit juices
Â home or commercially packaged fruits
Â bread, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)
Â pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough
Â flour, cornmeal, nuts
Â breakfast items Â waffles, pancakes, bagels
Â 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.