Safety of Frozen Foods During a Power Outage
Keep the Freezer Closed
With the freezer closed, foods usually will stay frozen at least a day, perhaps two or three days, depending on the quantity of insulation. Food in well-fitted, well-insulated four-cubic-foot home freezers will not begin to spoil in fewer than three days. In 12- to 36-cubic-foot freezers, food will not begin to spoil in fewer than five days, and may be all right for seven or eight days if the food is very cold.
Open the freezer only to take out the food, to move it to a cooler or to add dry ice. With the door closed, food in most unopened freezers will stay below 40 degrees F up to three days, even in the summer. Thawing rate depends on:
Use Emergency Measures
Cover the freezer with blankets, quilts, or crumpled newspaper. Do not cover the air vent openings. Use dry ice if it is available. (See section on Using Dry Ice.)
Use Caution if Food has Thawed
Partial thawing and re-freezing can ruin the quality of foods, like fruits, vegetables and prepared foods. Red meats are affected less than many other foods. However, it may still be safe to eat.
You may safely re-freeze some foods if they still contain ice crystals or if they have been kept at 40 degrees F or below for no more than two days.
Follow these guidelines for completely thawed foods:
If it seems likely that your freezer will not be on for several days, dry ice may help keep frozen food from spoiling. The more dry ice you use, the longer the food will stay frozen. However, dry ice is very costly and may not be easy to get. If a flood or power outage is predicted, and you want to use dry ice, find a source in advance.
You may be able to buy dry ice from a local dairy or cold-storage warehouse, or your power company may be able to direct you to a source. Follow these guidelines for using and handling dry ice:
Source: “Safety of Frozen Food During a Power Failure or Flood,” and “Using Dry Ice During a Power Failure,” fact sheet HE8170, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 1997.
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