|In Africa, power outages (euphemistically known as load shedding) are common. Other disasters, such as floods, more severe storms or large wildfires are also on the increase, mostly due to man’s intrusion and global warming. How do you plan for and handle food safety in the midst of a blackout?|
9 Most Helpful Planning Tips for Power Outages / Load Shedding:
- Make sure that your fridge and freezer are really cold. A fridge needs to run at or below 4°C and a freezer at -18°C.
- Invest in a fridge and a freezer thermometer, so at any time and after a power outage, you can tell when the temperature has been exceeded and food safety compromised.
- Freeze extra large bottles of water and ice packs to use as ice blocks in the fridge when the power goes out. This can also be used as drinking water in an emergency.
- Packing food inside large plastic containers in the freezer and grouping them together will help to insulate them for longer during power outages.
- If your fridge or freezer are chest models, keep an old blanket / towels nearby to throw over the front of the door, to further insulate the closure.
- If you have advance warning of power outages, place the freezable food that is in the fridge into the freezer, as the freezer will stay cold for much longer than the fridge will.
- Find out who stocks dry ice blocks near you, you can also place this in a fridge and freezer to keep it cold for longer.
- Store food on shelves, so that they don’t readily come into contact with defrosted liquids or flood water.
- Keep a good supply of dry goods available, eg tinned food, boxed dairy products.
A variety of fridge / freezer thermometers are available from Selectech.
What to do for food safety when the power goes out:
- Place the frozen water bottles or ice packs in the fridge and then try not to open the door.
- Food will stay cold in the fridge for about 4 hours if the fridge is unopened, this will be extended if there are ice blocks in the fridge.
- Place higher value items in cooler boxes with ice bricks packed on top.
- The freezer will keep food chilled for about 48 hours if the door is kept closed.
- Monitor the temperature with the fridge thermometer. Companies will find it easier to use a temperature data logger, which can remotely monitor the temperature.
- If the period of outage is going to be extended, add some dry ice, if possible.
- If you do not have access to safe water, the water should be filtered and boiled or disinfected before use.
NB – when to discard food:
- The general rule is : discard perishable food that has been above 4°C for two or more hours.
- Frozen food that is -18°C or still contains ice crystals is safe to refreeze or cook.
- If you are unsure, you can check the internal temperature of the food with a probe thermometer.
- Consult the Food Charts below to see which foods are regarded as perishable.
- Perishable food that has not been kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may be infected with bacteria that you cannot always smell or see and may cause illness if eaten, even if well cooked.
- Clean and sanitize shelves and surfaces thoroughly.
Power outages and safety of different refrigerated and frozen food types
1. When should you throw out refrigerated food:After a power outage, you need to decide which refrigerated food you should keep and which you should dispose of, preferably to compost and packaging recycling, or the dustbin. When in doubt, refer to the No. 1 rule: The general rule is : discard perishable food that has been above 4°C for two or more hours.
Power outages and safety of different refrigerated food types
|Food Categories||Specific Foods||Held above 4°C for over 2 hours|
|MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD||Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish or seafood; soya meat substitutes||Discard|
|Thawing meat or poultry||Discard|
|Salads: meat tuna, prawn, chicken or egg salad||Discard|
|Gravy, stuffing, broth||Discard|
|Lunch-meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef||Discard|
|Pizza – with any topping||Discard|
|Canned hams labeled “Keep refrigerated”||Discard|
|Canned meats and fish, opened||Discard|
|Casseroles, soups, stews||Discard|
|CHEESE||Soft cheeses: blue, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, ricotta, mozzarella, Edam||Discard|
|Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Provolone, Romano||Safe|
|Grated Parmesan, Romano in can or jar||Safe|
|DAIRY||Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yoghurt, eggnog, soy milk||Discard|
|Baby formula, opened||Discard|
|EGGS||Fresh eggs, hard cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products||Discard|
|Custards and puddings, quiche||Discard|
|FRUITS||Fresh fruits, cut||Discard|
|Fruit juices, opened||Safe|
|Canned fruits, opened||Safe|
|Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates||Safe|
|SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS||Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish||Discard if above 10°C for over 8 hours|
|Jam, relish, taco sauce, mustard, tomato sauce, olives, pickles||Safe|
|Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces||Safe|
|Fish sauces, oyster sauce||Discard|
|Opened vinegar based dressings||Safe|
|Opened creamy based dressings||Discard|
|Spaghetti sauce, opened jar||Discard|
|BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS||Breads, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas||Safe|
|Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough||Discard|
|Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes||Discard|
|Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette||Discard|
|Breakfast foods – waffles, pancakes, bagels||Safe|
|PIES, PASTRY||Pastries, cream filled||Discard|
|Pies – custard, cheese filled or chiffon, quiche||Discard|
|VEGETABLES||Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices||Safe|
|Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged||Discard|
|Vegetables, cooked, tofu||Discard|
|Vegetable juice, opened||Discard|
|Commercial garlic in oil||Discard|
|Casseroles, soups, stews||Discard|
2. When should you throw out frozen food:Food can stay safe in the freezer for around 48 hours and then can safely be refrozen. The texture of the food may be more mushy, but it will be safe to eat. When in doubt, refer to the No. 2 rule: Frozen food that is -18°C or still contains ice crystals is safe to refreeze or cook.
Power outages and safety of different frozen food types
|Food Categories||Specific Foods||Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated||Thawed and held above -18°C for over 2 hours|
|MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD||Beef, veal, lamb, pork and ground meats||Refreeze||Discard|
|Poultry and ground poultry||Refreeze||Discard|
|Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)||Refreeze||Discard|
|Casseroles, stews, soups||Refreeze||Discard|
|Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products||Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavour loss.||Discard|
|DAIRY||Milk||Refreeze. May be some texture loss.||Discard|
|Eggs (out of shell) and egg products||Refreeze||Discard|
|Ice cream, frozen yoghurt||Discard||Discard|
|Cheese (soft and semi-soft)||Refreeze. May be some texture loss.||Discard|
|Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses||Refreeze||Discard|
|FRUITS||Juices||Refreeze||Refreeze. Discard if mould, yeasty smell or sliminess develops.|
|Home or commercially packaged||Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavour loss.||Refreeze. Discard if mould, yeasty smell or sliminess develops.|
|VEGETABLES||Juices||Refreeze||Discard after held above -18°C for 6 hours|
|Home or commercially packaged||Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavour loss.||Discard after held above -18°C for 6 hours|
|BREADS, PASTRIES||Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling||Refreeze||Discard|
|Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough||Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur.||Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.|
|OTHER||Casseroles – pasta, rice based||Refreeze||Discard|
|Flour, cornmeal, nuts||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Breakfast items – waffles, pancakes, bagels||Refreeze||Refreeze|
|Frozen meals, entrees, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods||Refreeze||Discard|