Power outages could ruin frozen food

Health officials share advice about preventing foodborne illnesses during a power outage.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: February 1, 2011

Health officials are warning Oklahomans without electricity that refrigerated and frozen foods may be dangerous to eat.

A full freezer of food can stay below 40 degrees up to about 48 hours after the loss of electricity, said Vicki Monks, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. Refrigerated food can last only about four hours.

Monks said to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed and avoid checking the temperature inside.

When power is restored, inspect all the food to determine what needs to be thrown away, she said. Frozen foods that still have ice crystals can be refrozen. Food without ice should be eaten immediately if safe or thrown away if not.

If any food is questionable, Monks said to throw it away.

Cooking tainted food doesn't kill the bacteria that cause sickness.

Food can be stored outdoors if the temperature is cold enough, Monks said. It should be kept somewhere safe from animals and pests, such as an ice chest. Monks said she has used her car trunk to keep food cold during a previous winter storm.

Monks said meat and dairy products can be especially dangerous. She said tainted food can smell, look and taste fine.

“It might not smell rotten,” she said, “but it still has enough bacteria growing to cause an illness.”

Oklahoma City-County Health Department provides instructions for a variety of foods affected by power outages at www.cchdoc.com.


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