The winter storm caused quite a few power outages across Texas last week, some longer than others. The outages were not only inconvenient but may result in the loss of food items stored in refrigerators and freezers.
Texas AgriLife says that a full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full). Your refrigerator will keep food at safe temperatures for up to four hours during a power outage.
As always, the recommendation is “When in doubt, throw it out.” During a snowstorm, it is not recommended to place perishable foods out in the snow. If this was done, the food should be thrown out. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals.
While Southeast Texans hope to never again see the kinds of temperatures experienced last week, the weather event is a reminder that the outside temperatures should only be used to make ice by filling up buckets, empty milk containers or cans with water. Once frozen, these can be used in the refrigerator, freezer or coolers.
If you experienced a power outage lasting more than four hours, Texas AgriLife recommends discarding these items:
- raw, cooked, or leftover meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and egg substitutes;
- lunchmeat and hot dogs;
- casseroles, soups, stews, and pizza;
- mixed salads (i.e., chicken, tuna, macaroni, potato);
- gravy and stuffing;
- milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream, and soft cheeses;
- cut fruits and vegetables (fresh);
- cooked vegetables;
- fruit and vegetable juices (opened);
- creamy-based salad dressings;
- batters and doughs (i.e., pancake batter, cookie dough);
- custard, chiffon, or cheese pies;
- cream-filled pastries; and
- garlic stored in oil.
Discard opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and horseradish if they were held above 50 °F for over eight hours. Discard any foods like bread or salad greens that may have become contaminated by juices dripping from raw meat, poultry, or fish. In general, if any food has an unusual odor, color, or texture, throw it out.
High-acid foods such as mustard, ketchup, relishes, pickles, non-creamy salad dressings, jams, and jellies; however, they may spoil sooner.
Foods that don’t actually require refrigeration. These foods may be used unless they turn moldy or have an unusual odor:
- whole fruits and vegetables (fresh);
- fruit and vegetable juices (unopened);
- dried fruits and coconut;
- baked goods such as fruit pies, bread, rolls, muffins, and cakes (except those with cream cheese frosting or cream fillings);
- hard and processed cheeses;
- butter and margarine;
- fresh herbs and spices;
- flour; and