As widespread power outages have occurred, the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) reminds residents without power that food spoilage may become an issue. In order to decrease the chances of illness, the department’s Bureau of Environmental Health makes the following recommendations to keep food safe during a power outage:
•Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
•The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
•A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
•Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two days. Baltimore City is not currently distributing ice or dried ice.
•If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed.
•If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 41°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
•If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 41 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
•Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 41°F for four hours or more.
Food service facilities and vendors may not operate without power or hot water and are required to discard any food that has exceeded 41°F for a period of 4 hours or more.
The Health Department reminds residents to properly dispose of any food left unrefrigerated since losing electricity. The Health Department recommends disposing of food in double plastic bags closed with ties and placed in a sealed garbage can outside. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the refrigerator temperature has not risen above 40 degrees for more than two hours.
“Bacteria that can make you sick cannot be seen or smelled. Residents should never taste food to determine if it’s spoiled. When in doubt, throw it out,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Oxiris Barbot. For more information and the latest updates on cooling centers locations and hours, visit us here.