URGENT: Advice needed immediately

cearabJuly 28, 2008

My power went out yesterday around 2:15 PM and did not come back on until 3:00 AM this morning. We had very heavy rainstorms here in NJ yesterday, but have been having power problems on my street for a week (almost every time it rains the power goes out). Question: is my food in the frig and freezer safe to eat? I purposely did not open the frig once the power went out and only opened the freezer once for a few seconds. I drank some milk that I had bought about an hour before the storm and it tasted fine just about an hour ago (10:30 am).

My neighbor just called to tell me she is throwing everything in her frig and freezer away. She said her ice cream had completely defrosted and was starting to refreeze so it freaked her out and she thought it best to throw away all the food.

It was hot here before the storm, but the weather cooled off rapidly after the rain. I would guess the temperature to be in the low 70's last night. What should I do here? I really cannot afford to replace all my food and my freezer is full. Is it safe to eat? I have not opened the freezer at all to take a look; just wanted keep it as cold as possible. Tuesday we lost power for 6 hours, but this time it was 12 hours without power.

All advice welcome!


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for the freezer if it was still frozen, it should be safe. anythign that thawed should be thrown out.

same thing with the fridge, as long as it did not get warm things will be okay. stuff like pork/poultry/etc should be tossed though. with those type items "when in doubt throw it out!" is the only way.

generally freezers will keep things frozen for 12-14 hours or so IF the freezer was pretty full. fridge side is usually about 8-10 hours before they start to get too warm. you are past that time, but jsut use good judgement.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 12:02PM
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If the power came back on at 3AM, I assume that everything in the freezer has refrozen, so you have no way of knowing if it thawed while the power was out. Given that, you probably want to toss it all. It won't hurt to eat it, but the quality suffers when it's refrozen.
In the future, anything that's still frozen is fine, leave it in the freezer.If it's thawed but still cold, refrigerate it and cook it soon. After it's cooked, it can be refrigerated for another few days, too. Ice cream etc that defrosted then refroze is gone.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 4:05PM
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Our power goes out a lot, and the word is that if unopened (well, more than once...) the food will be ok for a long time, certainly a day or two. Ice cream might melt, and other food thaw, but if undisturbed, and wrapped properly, won't be ruined.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 5:09PM
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12 hours should be fine for the unopened freezer. Automatically throwing out everything is just absolutely alien to my way of dong things. And the food would have had to get to above 32 degs and stay there for a few hours to actually thaw. It has been many years since my formal physics study. Perhaps some study on your own will relieve your worries. We mostly grow and freeze our own food and throwing it out is heart breaking. And as you know, thawed food can be cooked and eaten! Isn't that the way you always do it!

Here is a link that might be useful: Physics

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 7:00PM
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Your freezer food is FINE. My power went out for 6 days last summer. I had a full freezer and didn't move the food to a working freezer, (at my dad's), until about 30 hours after I lost power.

I did throw some of the fridge food out. I kept cheese, butter, veggies, and anything that had high acid content, ie, things with vinegar. Everything else was tossed.

Here is a link that might be useful: clicky

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 8:22PM
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In the future put a baggie that contains a few ice cubs in your freezer. If the ice cubes are solid after a chancy situation, they did not thaw all the way out and refreeze. But if your baggies turns into one solid block of ice, it did thaw and refreeze. We use this method at our cabin because we only go there for weekends and sometimes wonder if the power went out during the week. A clock doesn't work as well because you can't tell exactly how many hours it's off.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2008 at 9:16PM
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To add to my previous comments, beef that is thawed and kept cool can be safely cooked. That's the way you do it all the time! That can be done three days after the power fails. When our power was out for 5 1/2 days, we gave away the meats to others who cooked and ate it. Most of our other stuff was moved to freezers in areas that had power restored.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 7:12AM
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I say your freezer food is fine, personally, I'd toss the ice cream because it won't taste as good if it started melting and re-froze. More than 24 hrs and you should look to throw out chicken.

I'd throw out any meat that was in the fridge. And milk will probably start to turn too. Other items, including condiments should be fine.

The ice cube in a bag trick is a good idea. You can also look in your automatic ice maker and see how much of the ice melted in the container.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 8:15AM
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thanks everyone. I went to the FDA site and they had some guidelines for this situation. Freezer food is fine up to 48 hours if it is well packed (mine is quite full), and if the door is not opened.
I did throw away cold cuts, yogurts, sour cream and opened cheese.
That ice cube trick is a good one, thanks for that.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 12:56PM
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If a chest type freezer is fairly full it will keep for 48 to 60 hrs with no problem if it is kept closed, however, every time you open the door to check on it, you cut the remaining time in 1/2.

By example, when the power goes out you have 60hrs, but if you open the door to check the freezer warm room air rushes in and that time is immediately cut to 30hrs. Come back in a few hours and open to check it again and the time is cut to 15hrs from the time the power went out. Wait a while then open to check it again and your now down to 7.5hours and should start planning on how you can cook all that meat to save it.

In refrigeration school they taught us that if the power goes out do not open the freezer doors, lock them shut, and if you don't have a lock, tape it shut with duct tape.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 2:50AM
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Whole chickens that have been frozen and then thawed are permitted to be sold in supermarkets as "fresh". Often these are frozen again by the purchasers. Obviously the taste quality is not improved by this practice, but there is no other downside. As a youngster, we had no electricity, but did have a cow. Milk kept for two or three days cooled in a brook spring or a a "drywell" about 30 feet deep. Evaluate milk by smelling of it. If it is souring, the nose knows. And soured milk is not unhealthy to drink- but not to my taste preference. And we made butter by first separating and souring the cream. The butter sales brought some cash to the household.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2008 at 8:48AM
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Cearab, you didn't need to throw out the cold cuts, especially if they are highly processed. That stuff has enough chemicals in it to "preserve" it for quite awhile! Cheese is fine. In fact, if you have moldy cheese, all you need to do is cut off the mold. If it is a very porous cheese that is more difficult, but hard cheeses are easy to remove it from.

Sour cream and yogurt will last just fine under those circumstances. They may be a little soupy, but mix them up and when they are colder the consistency will be the same.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 12:16AM
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