AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University food safety specialist Sam Beattie answers questions about what to do with refrigerated and frozen food if the electricity has been off.
Some of my food in the freezer started to thaw or had thawed when the power came back on. Is the food safe? How long will the food in the refrigerator be safe with the power off?
Never taste food to determine its safety! You will have to evaluate each item separately.
If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when the power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer stored in the freezer reads 40 F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety.
Remember, you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 F or below, it is safe to refreeze.
Refrigerated food should be safe as long as power is out no more than four hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 F for two hours.
May I refreeze the food in the freezer if it thawed or partially thawed?
Yes, the food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 F or below. You will have to evaluate each item separately. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, firstname.lastname@example.org