CSU Extension Office: Keeping food safe during a power outage | SteamboatToday.com

CSU Extension Office: Keeping food safe during a power outage

Karen Massey For Steamboat Today

Routt County CSU Extension

Do you know how to feed yourself and your family during an extended power outage?  Recent hurricanes and other natural disasters have left entire communities without electricity for days and weeks. 

While we don't worry about hurricanes in the Mountain West, we are challenged by extended power outages from unexpected blizzards and wildfires.  Without power, the household refrigerator and that extra freezer in your garage can no longer be used to keep perishables safe.

As the winter approaches, consider stocking your home with at least a three-day supply of food and water. Don't buy Spam, unless your family enjoys Spam.  Instead, stock up on canned and dry foods that your family would normally eat.  They should be foods that don't require refrigeration, and need minimal preparation. 

Select small can sizes that provide just the right number of servings.  Without refrigeration, there won't be a place to safety store any leftovers.  Rotate these foods in your pantry by eating them every 6 to 12 months and replacing them with newly purchased items.

Keep on hand a variety of shelf-stable foods for emergencies.  High protein foods such as peanut butter, canned tuna or chicken, nonfat dry milk and canned evaporated milk are good pantry staples.  Ready-to-eat grain products like dry cereal, granola bars, pretzels and crackers can provide valuable calories in a hurry.  Canned soups, fruit, vegetables and sauces can be eaten right off of the shelf, but remember to have a manual can opener available to open them.  You may already have some of these foods on hand, so just remember to keep them stocked up for emergencies.

When the electricity goes out, there are steps that you can take to keep the foods inside your refrigerator and freezer safe to eat.  Food-borne pathogens will begin to multiply when the temperature increases to 40 degrees.  Keep the door closed and refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is returned within 4 hours. 

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Food in a full freezer should be safe if the power returns within two-days, and a half-full freezer should be safe for about one day.  Most importantly, avoid opening the door and allowing the cold air out.  When power is restored, a food that still contains ice crystals it can be safely refrozen.  Discard any perishable food that has been stored above 40°F for more than 2 hours. 

Harmful bacteria and toxins that develop in food are tasteless and odorless, so never taste food to determine if it is safe.

Water is essential to life and in some disasters water supplies become contaminated. Experts recommend that you plan to have one gallon of water per day for each person in your family.

Karen Massey is a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County.  Contact 970-879-0825 or email karen.massey@colostate.edu.  Follow her personal food blog at lifeintheboat.com