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Storing Food

Frozen Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out

Adapted from Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA).

Thawed or partially thawed food in the freezer may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. Partial thawing and refreezing may affect the quality of some food, but the food will be safe to eat.

If you keep an appliance thermometer in your freezer, it’s easy to tell whether food is safe. When the power comes back on, check the thermometer. If it reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen.

Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

Note: Always discard any items in the freezer that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide.

Food Categories

Specific Foods

Still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated

Thawed and held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD

Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats

Refreeze

Discard

Poultry and ground poultry

Refreeze

Discard

Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)

Refreeze

Discard

Casseroles, stews, soups

Refreeze

Discard

Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products

Refreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss.

Discard

DAIRY

Milk

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Discard

Eggs (out of shell) and egg products

Refreeze

Discard

Ice cream, frozen yogurt

Discard

Discard

Cheese (soft and semi-soft)

Refreeze. May lose some texture.

Discard

Hard cheeses

Refreeze

Refreeze

Shredded cheeses

Refreeze

Discard

Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses

Refreeze

Discard

Cheesecake

Refreeze

Discard

FRUITS

Juices

Refreeze

Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.

Home or commercially packaged

Refreeze. Will change texture and flavor.

Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.

VEGETABLES

Juices

Refreeze

Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.

Home or commercially packaged or blanched

Refreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss.

Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.

BREADS, PASTRIES

Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)

Refreeze

Refreeze

Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling

Refreeze

Discard

Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread dough

Refreeze. Some quality loss may occur.

Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.

OTHER

Casseroles – pasta, rice based

Refreeze

Discard

Flour, cornmeal, nuts

Refreeze

Refreeze

Breakfast items –waffles, pancakes, bagels

Refreeze

Refreeze

Frozen meal, entree, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods)

Refreeze

Discard

 

Food Safety Tips for Weather Emergencies

Adapted from Preparing for a Weather Emergency (USDA)

Severe weather events can mean power outages, floods, and other problems that can affect the safety of food. Knowing what to do before and after a weather event can help you reduce your risk of illness. By following these guidelines, you can also minimize the amount of food that may be lost due to spoilage. Especially in storm-prone areas, power outages can be a common problem. Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it may take from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas. Without electricity or a cold source, food stored in refrigerators and freezers can become unsafe. Bacteria in food grow rapidly at temperatures between 41 and 135 °F, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.

Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:

• Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer indicates the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. In the case of a power outage, it can help determine the safety of the food.

• Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 ºF or below.

• Freeze containers of water ahead of time for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out. Freeze gel packs for use in coolers.

• Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.

• Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

• Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.

• Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.

• Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

Steps to follow after the weather emergency:

• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

• The refrigerator will keep food safe for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.

• Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.

• Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below when checked with a food thermometer.

• Never taste a food to determine its safety!

• Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer 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-cubicfoot full freezer for 2 days.

• If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.

• If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.

During Snow and Ice Storms

• During a snowstorm, do not place perishable food out in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals. Instead, make ice. Fill buckets, empty milk containers, or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Use this ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers.

If Flooding Occurs

• Drink only bottled water that has not come in contact with flood water. Discard any bottled water that may have come in contact with flood water.

• Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it may have come in contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screwcaps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps.

• Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers that may have come in contact with flood water.

• Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in allmetal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved. Follow the “Steps to Salvage AllMetal Cans and Retort Pouches” in the publication Keeping Food Safe During and Emergency.

To Remove Odors from Refrigerators and Freezers

If food has spoiled in a refrigerator or freezer and odors from the food remain, they may be difficult to remove. The following procedures may help but may have to be repeated several times. • Dispose of any spoiled or questionable food.

• Remove shelves, crispers, and ice trays. Wash them thoroughly with hot water and detergent. Then rinse with a sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water).

• Wash the interior of the refrigerator and freezer, including the door and gasket, with hot water and baking soda. Rinse with sanitizing solution as above.

• Leave the door open for about 15 minutes to allow free air circulation. For more information about removing odors, see Removing Odors from Refrigerators and Freezers.

If you have a question about meat, poultry, or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); TTY: 1-800-256-7072.

The Hotline is open yearround Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET (English or Spanish). Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Check out the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Send E-mail questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or use the automated response system at AskKaren.gov.

Refrigerated Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out

Adapted from Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA).

Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? It should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for over 2 hours.

Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

Note: Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide.

Food Categories

Specific Foods

Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD

Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes

Discard

Thawing meat or poultry

Discard

Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad

Discard

Gravy, stuffing, broth

Discard

Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef

Discard

Pizza – with any topping

Discard

Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated"

Discard

Canned meats and fish, opened

Discard

Casseroles, soups, stews

Discard

CHEESE

Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco

Discard

Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano

Safe

Processed Cheeses

Safe

Shredded Cheeses

Discard

Low-fat Cheeses

Discard

Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)

Safe

DAIRY

Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk

Discard

Butter, margarine

Safe

Baby formula, opened

Discard

EGGS

Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

Discard

Custards and puddings, quiche

Discard

FRUITS

Fresh fruits, cut

Discard

Fruit juices, opened

Safe

Canned fruits, opened

Safe

Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates

Safe

SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS

Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish

Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.

Peanut butter

Safe

Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles

Safe

Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces

Safe

Fish sauces, oyster sauce

Discard

Opened vinegar-based dressings

Safe

Opened creamy-based dressings

Discard

Spaghetti sauce, opened jar

Discard

BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS

Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas

Safe

Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough

Discard

Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes

Discard

Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette

Discard

Fresh pasta

Discard

Cheesecake

Discard

Breakfast foods –waffles, pancakes, bagels

Safe

PIES, PASTRY

Pastries, cream filled

Discard

Pies – custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche

Discard

Pies, fruit

Safe

VEGETABLES

Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices

Safe

Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged

Discard

Vegetables, raw

Safe

Vegetables, cooked; tofu

Discard

Vegetable juice, opened

Discard

Baked potatoes

Discard

Commercial garlic in oil

Discard

Potato salad

Discard

Casseroles, soups, stews

Discard

Ham Storage Chart

Type of Ham

Refrigerate

Freeze

Fresh (uncured) Ham, uncooked

3 to 5 days

6 months

Fresh (uncured) Ham, cooked

3 to 4 days

3 to 4 months

Cured Ham, cook-before-eating; uncooked

5 to 7 days or “use-by” date*

3 to 4 months

Cured Ham, cook-before-eating; after consumer cooks it

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, vacuum sealed at plant,undated; unopened

2 weeks

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, vacuum sealed at plant,dated; unopened

“Use- by” date*

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, vacuum sealed at plant, undated or dated; opened

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, whole, store wrapped

7 days

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, half, store wrapped

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Cooked Ham, slices, store wrapped

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Spiral-cut hams and leftovers from consumer-cooked hams

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

**Country Ham, uncooked, cut

2 to 3 months

1 month

Country Ham, cooked

7 days

1 month

Canned Ham, labeled "Keep Refrigerated," unopened

6 to 9 months

Do not freeze

Canned Ham, labeled "Keep Refrigerated," opened

7 days

1 to 2 months

***Canned Ham, shelf stable, opened

3 to 4 days

1 to 2 months

Lunch Meat Ham, sealed at plant, unopened

2 weeks or “use-by” date*

1 to 2 months

Lunch Meat Ham, sealed at plant, after opening

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Lunch Meat Ham, sliced in store

3 to 5 days

1 to 2 months

Prosciutto, Parma or Serrano Ham, dry Italian or Spanish type, cut

2 to 3 months

1 month

*Company determines its "use-by" date and stands by it.

** A whole, uncut country ham can be stored safely at room temperature for up to 1 year. The ham is safe after 1 year, but the quality may suffer.

*** An unopened shelf-stable, canned ham may be stored at room temperature for 2 years.

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