Maine CDC Press Release
December 9, 2014
Maine CDC Offers Food Safety Tips For When the Power Goes Out
AUGUSTA – With ice and freezing rain in the forecast, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following food safety recommendations in the event of lost power:
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer at all times to see if food is being stored at safe temperatures (40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for the refrigerator; 0 degrees F for the freezer. Most food borne illness is caused by bacteria that multiply rapidly at temperatures above 40 degrees F.
Leave the freezer door closed. A full freezer should keep food safe for about two days; a half-full freeze for about one day. Add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time. You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold and solid to the touch.
Refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is out no more than about four to six hours. Discard any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees F for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture. The general rule of thumb is "when in doubt, throw it out."
Leave the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. Every time you open it, cold air escapes and the temperature rises. If it appears the power will be off more than six hours, transfer refrigerated perishable foods to an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 40 degrees F or below.
Never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they've been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria can multiply very rapidly. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking and could make you sick.
If using a generator to supply power, be sure to do so safely. One generator produces as much carbon monoxide as 100 cars. If using this alternative to keep appliances running, make sure the generator is in open space at least 15 feet from any windows or doors and outside the home. For more information about food safety during a power outage or disaster, call the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Restaurant owners can visit the Health Inspection Program website for emergency guidance: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/el/