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When the Power Goes Out ...

What do you do with your food?

With local areas hit by power outages from recent storms, the Cumberland County Health Department is offering advice on how to preserve perishable foods without refrigeration and how to tell when food is spoiled and should be discarded. Here are some recommendations:

  1. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer at all times to see if food is being stored at safe temperatures (45° F for the refrigerator; 0° F for the freezer). The key to determining the safety of foods in the refrigerator and freezer is how cold they are. Most foodborne illness is caused by bacteria that multiply rapidly at temperatures above 45° F.
  2. Leave the freezer door closed. A full freezer should keep food safe about 2 days; a half-full freezer, about 1 day. Add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time. You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold to the touch.
  3. Refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is out no more than 4 to 6 hours. Discard any perishable food that has been above 45° F for 2 hours or more, and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture. Leave the door closed; every time you open it, needed cold air escapes causing the foods inside to reach unsafe temperatures.
  4. If it appears the power will be off more than six hours, transfer refrigerated perishable foods to an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs. Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 45° F or below.
  5. Never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they've been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria able to cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply very rapidly. Some types will produce toxins which are not destroyed by cooking and can possibly cause illness.
  6. For information about food safety during a power outage or disaster, call the Cumberland County Health Department at (910) 433-3705

Refrigerated Foods that have been above 45° for over 2 hours

Item What to do
Dairy Products
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt Discard
Butter, margarine Safe
Baby formula, opened Discard
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products Discard
Custards and puddings Discard
Soft Cheeses: blue (bleu or imported), brie, camembert, Colby, cottage, cream, edam, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, muenster, Neufchatel, ricotta, Roquefort Discard
Hard Cheeses: cheddar, parmesan, provolone, Romano, Swiss Safe
Processed cheeses: American Safe
Shredded cheeses Discard
Low-fat cheeses Discard
Commercial Grated Hard Cheese purchased in a can or jar (Parmesan, Romano or combination) Safe
Fruit juices, opened Safe
Canned fruits, opened Safe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
Fresh cut-up fruits Discard
Pies, Pastry
Pastries, cream filled Discard
Pies - custard, cheese filled or chiffons Discard
Pies, fruit Safe
Fresh mushrooms, herbs and spices Safe
Vegetables, raw Safe
Vegetables, cooked Discard
Vegetable juice, opened Discard
Baked potatoes Discard
Commercial garlic in oil Discard
Potato Salad Discard
Casseroles, Soups, Stews Discard
Fresh or leftover meat, poultry, fish or seafood Discard
Thawing meat or poultry Discard
Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, egg salad Discard
Gravy, stuffing Discard
Lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Discard
Pizza - any topping Discard
Canned meats (NOT labeled "Keep Refrigerated") but
refrigerated after opening
Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated" Discard
Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Pasta
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads Safe
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Discard
Cooked pasta, spaghetti Discard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinegar base Discard
Fresh pasta Discard
Cheese cake Discard
Breakfast foods - waffles, pancakes, bagels Safe
Sauces, Spreads, Jams
Peanut butter Safe
Jelly, relish, taco and barbecue sauce, mustard, catsup, olives Safe
White wine, worcestershire sauce Discard
Fish sauces (oyster sauce) Discard
Hoisin sauce Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressings Safe
Opened creamy-based dressings Discard
Deli-prepared foods - Salads, cole slaw, cooked meats or poultry, luncheon meats Discard
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish Discard if above 45° F for over 8 hours

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Frozen Foods

Item Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated Thawed. Held above 45 for over 2 hours
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 flavor loss Discard
Milk Refreeze - however may lose some texture Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Cheese (soft and semi-soft) Refreeze - however may lose some texture Discard
Hard cheeses Refreeze Refreeze
Shredded cheeses Refreeze Discard
Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses Refreeze Discard
Cheesecake Refreeze Discard
Juices Refreeze Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell or sliminess develops
Home or commercially packaged Refreeze Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell or sliminess develops
Juices Refreeze Discard after held above 45° F for 6 hours
Home or commercially packaged or blanched Refreeze - however May suffer texture and flavor loss Discard after held above 45° F 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 Refreeze Refreeze
Commercial and homemade bread dough Refreeze - however some quality loss may occur Refreeze - however considerable quality loss
Casseroles - pasta, rice-based Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts Refreeze Refreeze
Breakfast items - waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie Refreeze Discard

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Cumberland County, NC.
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Fayetteville, NC 28301