Time Critical If Freezer Is Hurricane Victim Warns LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  6/9/2005 8:45:51 PM

News Release Distributed 07/01/01

If a hurricane or other natural disaster causes a power failure, frozen or refrigerated foods may not be safe to eat after just two hours once they've warmed above 40 degrees F, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames. "Once foods reach 40 degrees, they need to be cooked and eaten within two hours," Reames says, "or thrown out."

The nutritionist says partially thawed frozen foods with ice crystals may be safely refrozen. Breads can be refrozen as can fruits and vegetables that are still at or below 40 degrees.

Reames warns, however, to discard all stuffed poultry. Do not refreeze frozen dinners that have thawed. Discard any meat that has a questionable odor or that has been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees F. for two hours or longer.

Of course, freezer foods don't suddenly thaw when the power goes out. Reames says they may remain frozen from one to three days, depending on these conditions: 1.) The freezer door must remain closed; 2). The freezer must be full or almost full; 3.) The temperature outside must be moderate; 4).The freezer must be large and well-insulated.

The nutritionist suggests using dry ice to keep food frozen. Put it in heavy paper or on boards inside the freezer or on top of packages. Allow 2½ - 3 pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of space. She says more will be needed in an upright freezer, because dry ice should be placed on each shelf. "Dry ice can cause burns, so don't handle it with bare hands," Reames cautions.

For additional information about hurricane preparedness, look for on-line publications "Living with Hurricanes" and "There's a Hurricane Forming" in the Extension publications section of the LSU AgCenter's Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.

You also can contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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Source: Beth Reames - (225) 578-3329, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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