A gentleman had been traveling during a time when the electricity was off for several days in many homes in his community. When he returned home, his electricity was working and everything in his freezer was frozen solid.
He proceeded to eat some food from the freezer and got sick. What happened?
In this case, his electricity had been off for about a week, and then came back on. Everything in his freezer had thawed and been at unsafe temperatures for several days. As the food froze again when the electricity returned, he was unaware there were any food safety problems.
Here's a simple way to help detect this problem. Store an ice cube or two in a sealed plastic bag or small container in the freezer; a sealed bag/container is important so the ice cube doesn't evaporate and disappear. If the ice cube has melted down from its original shape, you'll know the power was off for an extended period of time.
How long is food safe in the refrigerator and freezer if the power goes out? What can you keep and what should be tossed? Here are a few resources:
- A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes, USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service, (Updated 2/2020)
- Food Safety During Power Outage, Foodsafety.gov
Article originally written by Alice Henneman. Reviewed and updated by Cindy Brison in 2020.