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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. 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
        Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes
        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
        Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco
        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
        Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk
        Butter, margarine Safe
        Baby formula, opened Discard
        Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products
        Custards and puddings Discard
        Fresh fruits, cut
        Fruit juices, opened Safe
        Canned fruits, opened Safe
        Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates Safe
        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, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas
        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
        Pies – custard,cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche Discard
        Pies, fruit Safe
        Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices
        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: