While uprooted trees and downed power lines caused a lot of damage in the Father’s Day storm that hit Great Bend, it could have been so much worse. I must admit it was a little scary sitting at the dining room table watching significant sized tree limbs fall from our previously well-shaped locust tree. Our power was just off a couple of hours which is a real testament to the power company workers who jumped into high gear and worked tirelessly to restore service.
Not everyone had their power restored so quickly so today I want to share some tips related to food safety during power outages. The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this. Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick.
Before the power goes out have coolers and frozen gel packs or ice on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. When the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
After the power returns, you will need to evaluate each item separately. When in doubt, throw it out. With frozen food, check for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thaws may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to the touch. Never taste a food to determine its safety. Realize too, that while re-freezing foods that still contain ice crystals may be safe to consume, often times the quality of the food product is reduced.
There is an excellent website, Foodsafety.gov that has a list of common foods stored in the refrigerator and freezer with specific guidelines. It would be handy to print it off and keep it close by for the next time the power goes off.
As households get back to normal following the last round of severe weather, remember we’re right in the middle of summer storm season. The neatest thing I saw happen following last weeks’ storm was the number of neighbors helping neighbors with the cleaning up and hauling off of tree debris. So during this time of so much uncertainty, it is good to see the spirit of our Central Kansas communities is stronger than ever!
Donna Krug is the Family & Consumer Science Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. Contact her at 620-793-1910 or email@example.com.