Play it safe with food; take steps to protect what’s in your refrigerator/freezer before a storm

Elizabeth S. Reames, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  6/3/2009 1:23:02 AM

News Release Distributed 06/02/09

Power outages often accompany summer storms, but there are steps you can take before a storm to give the food in your refrigerator or freezer a little more time.

“After a disaster, electrical power may be disrupted for hours, sometimes days,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food safety expert Dr. Beth Reames. “There are things you can do to prepare for an outage which may extend the life of foods in your refrigerator or freezer.”

Reames says a refrigerator ordinarily will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours – or 24 hours if it’s only half full – if the door remains closed during an outage.

“You can buy dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time,” Reames says. “Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.”

The LSU AgCenter expert also offers these other tips about actions you can take now – or anytime before the power goes out – to help protect food:

–Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

–Make sure the freezer is set so it keeps the temperature at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit while it’s running and that the refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees F.

–Freeze containers (such as milk cartons or plastic jugs) of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.

–Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately. This helps keep them at a safe temperature longer if the power goes out.

–Group food together in the freezer. This helps the food stay cold longer.

–Separate raw meat and poultry items from other foods. Place them on the bottom shelf. If raw meat and poultry begin to thaw, this will prevent their juices from getting onto other foods.

–Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

–Have coolers on hand to keep food from your refrigerator cold if the power will be out for more than four hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store them in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs or containers of water ahead of time for use in coolers.

“It’s also a good idea to use coolers to keep the items you are likely to need and to leave your refrigerator and freezer closed for as long as possible once the power is out,” Reames says. “The more you open the refrigerator or freezer during an outage means less time your food will stay cold or frozen.”

For more advice on food safety, nutrition and a variety of other topics, visit You also can find additional information on preparing for storms at a variety of locations on that site.


Contact: Beth Reames
Writer: Tom Merrill

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