Salvaging food when the power goes out

How long do you have?
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 3:13 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 3:22 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - One thing we learn to expect living in Arizona; monsoon storms can bring power outages. Anyone who’s been through one wonders about the safety of the food left in their fridge. One 13 News viewer wondered, “If I don’t know how long the power’s been out, how do I know if I have to throw out my food?

First, your food may still be okay to eat. There’s no magic number of hours when your fridge contents automatically go from edible to inedible. Food-borne organisms like salmonella and E. coli do not create mold or a bad odor, so you won’t be able to tell if they’re growing. Amanda Anderson with Pima County Health Department Consumer Health and Food Safety says, the only way you can tell if something is lurking is with a good thermometer.

”Make sure when your power comes back on that you check your food if it’s 41 degrees or below,” said Anderson. “If it’s above 41 and you don’t know how long it’s been at a temperature, it’s safest to throw it away.”

  1. That goes for meat, eggs, cheese, milk, open dressings, dough, and cut fruit and vegetables.
  2. If you’re home when the power first goes out, keep the fridge door closed and everything should be fine for up to four hours. Some foods can last 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator with the door shut.
  3. After that, you could put food in a cooler with ice packs.
  4. When in doubt, toss it out.
  5. Food in the freezer has much more time - 48 hours before you have to throw it out. It becomes more of a quality issue than a safety one.

Even If you have to throw everything out, all may not be lost; Many insurance companies will reimburse you up to $500 for spoiled food if it’s a covered loss - called a “peril.”

Take pictures of the food - and know that different companies cover different amounts. Plus, you may have to pay a deductible. But it’s worth checking and maybe filing a claim.

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