food safety after power outage

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mouses
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food safety after power outage

Post by mouses »

So we had a two day power outage. Yes, I am now getting a generator. This is the third multi-day power outage in 2-3 years.

I hauled trash bags full of food out to the compost heap and trash bin.

I have not been able to find online in food safety guidelines whether I need to throw out molasses? Also, I am a little puzzled about the throw out yogurt guideline; is that really correct? Are eggs really to be thrown out - I thought they kept at room temperature for days.

It now occurs to me that I should have hauled the contents of the refrigerator out into the nearly freezing weather for storage, but whatever.

Thanks.
barnaclebob
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by barnaclebob »

I didn't know you were supposed to keep molasses in the fridge. Your eggs are fine too. If the yogurt doesn't show surface mold and doesn't smell funky I'd eat it.
curmudgeon
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by curmudgeon »

There's a lot of silliness in some of those guidelines, and a lot in some of those "refrigerate after opening" as well.

I've never kept molasses in the fridge, don't tend to keep ketchup or mustard or BBQ sauce either (they have a reasonable degree of acidity). But we do go through those, so they don't sit around for years, and they don't get especially warm in our house. I was amused on our recent trip to Spain and Germany; I couldn't find the eggs in the supermarket, because they weren't kept in refrigeration at all...
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unclescrooge
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by unclescrooge »

Molasses lives outside your fridge for months.
gostars
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by gostars »

Molasses is nearly pure sugar and it should keep just fine for years as long as the container is tightly closed and stored in a cool, dark spot in the back of the pantry. If left open, it will pull humidity out of the air and that could dilute things at the surface enough to grow fuzz. I wasn't even aware that people refrigerated molasses. Seems like that might result in condensation which could result in fuzz.

Eggs can be left out for maybe a day, and even then I would probably limit use to methods that will result in full cooking, like hardboiled eggs or baked goods. Best to avoid soft boiled, over easy, custard, ice cream, and anything else that may not cook enough to kill off E. coli.

The contents of your freezer should be fine as well, though after 2 days it's probably time to fire up the grill and have a cookout since thawing and refreezing meat is a bad idea. Besides potential food safety issues, the meat will end up dry and with a funny texture.
CurlyDave
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by CurlyDave »

If you have an ice maker, you have a built in tell-tale.

If the ice in the bin has any lumps in it after the power comes back on, the food is good because the fridge stayed cold enough for the ice to not melt completely.

If it is one big slab of ice in the bottom of the bin, it melted completely and you just don't know what the temp was inside.

Ice cubes in a tray are obviously not going to tell you anything.
HongKonger
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by HongKonger »

Find out the rating of your freezer. Mine is 72 hours.

I suggest you visit some pantry management/homesteading/self sufficiency websites for listings but honestly, its mostly common sense. Does it look bad, does it smell bad. Learn the difference between yeasts and molds. Understand the role of salt, sugar, acids in food preservation.

If power outs are becoming more common, make sure you have freezer contents on your home insurance. I know of people like me who keep a full 12 month pantry and have had their entire years worth of meat stores wiped out.
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ResearchMed
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by ResearchMed »

CurlyDave wrote: Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:42 am If you have an ice maker, you have a built in tell-tale.

If the ice in the bin has any lumps in it after the power comes back on, the food is good because the fridge stayed cold enough for the ice to not melt completely.

If it is one big slab of ice in the bottom of the bin, it melted completely and you just don't know what the temp was inside.

Ice cubes in a tray are obviously not going to tell you anything.
We don't have an icemaker.

However, we leave a ziplock baggie with some intact ice cubes in our freezer.
If those ice cubes remain in that form, then the outtage probably did not affect food.
If the ice is fully, or somewhat, melted (and refrozen or not), then the food is probably not safe.

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red5
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by red5 »

Your homeowners insurance may cover food loss. We had a longish outage last fall and had to throw away a lot of our food. I hadn't even realised that food loss was a part of my policy. However it did not make sense to use the policy and lose my claims free discount over a couple hundred dollars.
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by LadyGeek »

Several of my coworkers were in a similar situation (Philly area). No power for 2 or more days and they needed to check their food.

Here are some guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Keep Food Safe | FoodSafety.gov

Also, google "When in doubt, throw it out."
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VictoriaF
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by VictoriaF »

In cool weather you can keep your food outdoors.

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mpsz
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by mpsz »

ResearchMed wrote: Tue Mar 06, 2018 4:44 am However, we leave a ziplock baggie with some intact ice cubes in our freezer.
If those ice cubes remain in that form, then the outtage probably did not affect food.
If the ice is fully, or somewhat, melted (and refrozen or not), then the food is probably not safe.

RM
I do the same. It's also a good way to make sure your freezer hasn't thawed if you are away on vacation.
whomever
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by whomever »

I have not been able to find online in food safety guidelines whether I need to throw out molasses?
I'm also in the 'People refrigerate molasses?' camp.
Also, I am a little puzzled about the throw out yogurt guideline; is that really correct?
Dunno what the guideline you're using.
Are eggs really to be thrown out - I thought they kept at room temperature for days.
I'd sure think so. In The Days Before Fridges people used to store them for extended periods by dipping them in waterglass (sodium silicate), which sealed them:

http://www.1900s.org.uk/1940s50s-preserving-eggs.htm

or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_si ... eservation which says:

"Sodium silicate was also used as an egg preservation agent through the early 20th century with large success. When fresh eggs are immersed in it, bacteria which cause the eggs to spoil are kept out and water is kept in. Eggs can be kept fresh using this method for up to five months. When boiling eggs preserved this way, it is well advised to pin-prick the egg to allow steam to escape because the shell is no longer porous"

Here's a test of various methods, including just storing at room temp:
https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-fo ... az77ndzgoe
livesoft
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by livesoft »

I've heard of coating egg in shell with vegetable oil, too, to help "seal" it.
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Nearly A Moose
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Nearly A Moose »

Throw out the yogurt. Sealed foods that are left at non refrigerated temp and haven’t been processed to be shelf stable at ambient temp run the risk of clostridium botulinum formation, which can cause botulism if toxins are consumed. C bot requires an anaerobic atmosphere to grow, and something like yogurt has lots of aerobes that could consume all the oxygen in the packaging headspace, which then lets c bot grow. This is one of those low-likelihood but extremely high consequence events. If the yogurt isn’t sealed (ie you opened multi serve container earlier), then there won’t be a c bot risk, and you can go with the smell test if you’re feeling lucky (but no guarantee the smell test will work - pathogens aren’t necessarily spoilage organisms, although they often have similar growth conditions).
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Nearly A Moose »

Molasses is fine. Lasts forever at room temp. I’d toss the eggs, or if you don’t, cook them thoroughly and clean up well. Salmonella enteritidis (and other salmonella species) grow well at room temp and can be found on eggs.
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by topper1296 »

I keep several 1/2 gallon milk jugs filled with water in my freezer to help keep food cold. Also, I took a plastic cup and filled it up about 1/2 way and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, put a quarter on top of the ice as an indicator in case of a power outage.
2cents2
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by 2cents2 »

curmudgeon wrote: Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:40 pm I was amused on our recent trip to Spain and Germany; I couldn't find the eggs in the supermarket, because they weren't kept in refrigeration at all...
Eggs are processed differently in Europe than they are in the US. Also, apparently condensation on the egg is a big no-no as it allows a pathway for bacteria to pentrate the shell.
Here is a article that explains better than I can. :) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sh ... s#section2
dmk395
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by dmk395 »

If my power goes out for an extended time period I throw everything away. The cost of getting sick is not worth saving a couple hundred bucks in food regardless.
dbr
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by dbr »

Using molasses out of the refrigerator is a good trick unless you store it in individual bricks.
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mouses
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by mouses »

dmk395 wrote: Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:23 am If my power goes out for an extended time period I throw everything away. The cost of getting sick is not worth saving a couple hundred bucks in food regardless.
I threw almost everything away once the dust settled. I only kept hard and processed cheeses, apples, potatoes, pickles, molasses, and peanut butter.
Calico
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Calico »

For eggs, you can tell if they are bad by putting them in water. If they sink, they are good. If they float, they are bad.

I learned that when I went to Colonial Williamsburg. Back in the day, they didn't have refrigeration and often didn't know how old eggs were. So that's what they did in early America. I think the science behind it is, when it starts to go bad, the insides start producing a lot of gas (which makes the egg buoyant).

I've never kept molasses in the fridge.
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Epsilon Delta
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Epsilon Delta »

topper1296 wrote: Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:57 pm I keep several 1/2 gallon milk jugs filled with water in my freezer to help keep food cold. Also, I took a plastic cup and filled it up about 1/2 way and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, put a quarter on top of the ice as an indicator in case of a power outage.
I use concentrate salt water in the my freezer fillers. About 3lb of rock salt per gallon jug. Salt water ice melts at a lower temperature. With plain water the ice cream melts first. I would prefer that the filler melt first. The blue freezer packs also contain chemicals that depress the freezing point and have the same effect, just more expensive.

The downside is my freezer jugs are no longer an emergency water supply, though I could use the salt water for non-potable purposes.
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Mudpuppy »

2cents2 wrote: Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:23 am
curmudgeon wrote: Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:40 pm I was amused on our recent trip to Spain and Germany; I couldn't find the eggs in the supermarket, because they weren't kept in refrigeration at all...
Eggs are processed differently in Europe than they are in the US. Also, apparently condensation on the egg is a big no-no as it allows a pathway for bacteria to pentrate the shell.
Here is a article that explains better than I can. :) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sh ... s#section2
I was going to point this out too. Commercially processed eggs in the U.S. need to be kept refrigerated due to washing and other processing techniques. Most EU countries use different processing techniques that leave the eggs "shelf stable", but U.S. commercially processed eggs are not shelf stable. The OP should toss those eggs to be safe.
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by Flobes »

mouses wrote: Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:11 pm Are eggs really to be thrown out - I thought they kept at room temperature for days.
Here's the "good" egg test I've known:
Fill a bowl with cold water. Place eggs in bowl.
* If they sink to the bottom on their sides, they are very fresh.
* If they sink to the bottom standing on end or tilted, they are fine.
* If they float, throw them out.
SouthernCPA
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by SouthernCPA »

dmk395 wrote: Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:23 am If my power goes out for an extended time period I throw everything away. The cost of getting sick is not worth saving a couple hundred bucks in food regardless.
This is my motto during hurricane season down here on the Gulf Coast. I now have a honda generator that I usually will run my fridge on, but before I had that...if it was questionable, I just threw it away. I'd be willing to lose a few thousand dollars of food to not go through food poisoning again (been there done that). It is not fun!
MandyT
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Re: food safety after power outage

Post by MandyT »

You may want to check whether your homeowner's insurance covers food spoilage. I just checked, and my renter's insurance covers up to $500 with no deductible. (Whether it's inadvisable to have a claim on your record could also be a consideration, I guess.)
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