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No electricity for 36 hours. How do I tell if my food is still OK?

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My electricity was out for about 36 hours which means the freezer and refrigerator lost power. All food in the freezer seemed to still be frozen after that time but how can I tell about food in the refrigerator?. I'm particularly concerned about dairy products and cheese. I also have some raw milk in glass bottles. Obviously I don't have a fridge thermometer and didn't open the door during the blackout to check anyway. The ambient room temp at the time of the blackout was about 70 degrees. It dropped to about 45 degrees during the night and rose to about 55 degrees the next day.

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  1. if you never opened the doors and the frozen food was still frozen, the stuff in the fridge should be fine...but if you're concerned, use the smell test. one whiff of the dairy [or any proteins you have in there] should tell you if it's spoiled.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      I agree with good - food will spoil a little faster now though so - keep checking as you eat the food. I', sure you would notice anyway,,,but what good said it'll smell.

      1. re: coastie

        I live in south Florida. Have been through 3 bad hurricanes since 2004.
        Francis....No power for 7 days
        Jeanne....No power for 11 days
        Wilma......No power for 12 days.

        My one suggestion is "Do not open the refrigerator anymore than you have to. Wait until the power comes on and see how it is then. It's like cooking a ham in a smoker. Every time you open the door you shorten the time by a few hours.
        But please do not take any chances. I don't know how your insurance is but I included food loss to any damages I had. Good luck to you.

      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

        The thing I was most worried about was the raw milk (unpasteurized). I drank some after the power came back on. It passed the smell test. So far, I'm OK.

        I never opened either the freezer or fridge the whole time and the freezer was packed to the gills. Everything stayed rock hard.

      3. The original comment has been removed
        1. Here is a list from the USDA. Since you don't have a thermometer, how did the food in the fridge feel once the power went on? Did it still feel cold to the touch? If you have no idea, I'd toss food rather than go on a sniff or taste. I went through this once and then bought thermometers for my fridge and freezers.

          When to Save and When to Throw It Out
          FOOD 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
          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
          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 Discard
          CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS 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

          2 Replies
          1. re: anni

            Do you have the link for this list? I'd be interested to read the rest of whatever was associated with it.

            1. re: ccbweb

              i copied "When to Save and When to Throw It Out FOOD Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours" and pasted it into the google search window. It returned a bunch of different hits. Here's one:

              http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001201-...