Reviewed June 2019

LAMAR, Mo. – When the power goes off, there is a simple rule of thumb for saving refrigerated food: The colder the foods, the longer they will keep, said a University of Missouri Extension nutrition specialist.

For foods in the freezer, the basic rule is that food that still has ice crystals inside it can be refrozen, nutrition specialist Tammy Roberts said. She suggests taking a permanent marker or crayon and marking each package in the freezer with an “X” to indicate it was partially thawed. Anything in the freezer that does not have ice crystals and has been held at temperatures above 40 degrees F for more than two hours should be thrown away. Meat that has thawed but has not been in the danger zone for more than two hours should be cooked. It can then be served or frozen for another time.

What if you don’t know how thawed the food items were before the freezer came back on?

“If you notice blood on neighboring packages or in the bottom of the freezer, this is an indication of advanced thawing," Roberts said. "At this point, since we are dealing with an unknown, the rule is, ‘If in doubt, throw it out.’”

Since your refrigerator should be about 40 degrees F or below during normal operation, two hours without power will mean you need to do some tossing. Opening the doors will speed up the warming process.

Toss all of the following refrigerated foods if they have been kept above 40 degrees F for more than two hours:

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry or fish
  • Hard-cooked or cracked eggs
  • Egg substitutes
  • Milk, cream, yogurt or soft cheese
  • Casseroles, stews or soups
  • Lunch meats and hot dogs
  • Creamy salad dressings
  • Custard, chiffon, cheese pies, cream-filled pastries or cookie dough
  • Condiments in the refrigerator door, like opened jars of mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish need to be thrown away if they were held above 50 degrees F for more than eight hours

The following refrigerated foods should keep at room temperature a few days:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Dried fruits and coconut
  • Opened jars of salad dressing (except mayonnaise types)
  • Peanut butter, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard and ketchup
  • Fruit juices
  • Olives
  • Hard and processed cheeses
  • Fresh herbs and spices
  • Fruit pies
  • Bread, rolls, cakes and muffins

Toss any of these items if they turn moldy or have an unusual odor, Roberts said.

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