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Broken fridge question (food safety) [moved from Home Cooking]

Clarissa Jun 3, 2012 09:21 AM

I had a broken fridge for a week. I threw out almost everything (obviously it got way to warm and there was a rather unpleasant smell) but saved a few things, including nuts that I store in the fridge and freezer. The person from Sears said to just toss everything, but I figured nuts don't need refrigeration, and I had a lot of them and didn't want to waste them. The packaging picked up a bit of the smell of the fridge, but the nuts taste and smell okay. The man on the phone spoke so emphatically I'm hesitating to use them, but I think he probably just says that about everything to everyone. Am about to use my sliced almonds but would love to get some assurance that it's okay. Same with my vinegar-based sauces and dressings, like Sriracha. Just don't know.


eta: I know this sounds like the dumbest question in the world. This guy just went on and on about airborne bacteria and I couldn't find anything online.

  1. todao Jun 3, 2012 09:56 AM

    Odors transferred between food items usually means airborne bacteria infection. Is it necessarily dangerous? That's a question that could only be answered with laboratory testing. Sometimes the odor is transferred only to the outside of a container and very careful handling can prevent cross contamination infecting the actual food in the container. But that too is risky. IMO, it's always best to err on the side of caution so I wouldn't use any of the items you describe. Sometimes life gives us lemons .... and even those can spoil.

    1. greygarious Jun 3, 2012 10:12 AM

      I would use the nuts as long as they themselves smell okay. Even functioning refrigerators transmit unpleasant smells to the exterior of containers and wrappings. I routinely double wrap items for the freezer, so the outer freezer bag does not contact any food. I re-use those outer bags if they do not smell, but after months in the freezer, they have that nasty freezer burn odor, even if washed and dried.

      Last Halloween's northeast storm left my house without power or heat for 104 hours. The freezer was very full at the time the power failed. I did not open the fridge or freezer at all - and when power returned, I was pleasantly surprised that the only thing I lost was some half and half which would have been sour by that time even without an outage. Frozen items were only partially thawed, and refroze safely. The ground beef, when later used, smelled a little old so went into meatloaf rather than being used as is for burgers.

      There WERE no refrigerators when my parents were children in Europe - I keep that in mind whenever I hear people advise discarding food that has spent a trifling amount of time outside the bounds of ideal storage.

      1. chefj Jun 3, 2012 11:19 AM

        If the items are non perishable like nuts, bottled vinegar and in closed containers they should be fine to use. Bactria can not penetrate most packing materials but most food items are not sterile so if the item is perishable it is possible that it may have spoiled while it was warn. Things like Siracha sauce can ferment so if its funky or bubbly ditch it.

        1. c
          Clarissa Jun 3, 2012 11:27 AM

          Thanks so much for the replies, everyone. I guess I'll toss everything. The nuts have a tiny bit of a smell. Bummer because I have a lot of nuts stored in the fridge. Such a squirrel.

          But the fridge was off for a week, so that was a long time. Oh, well.

          Thank you all for the help.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Clarissa
            Isolda Jun 3, 2012 03:43 PM

            If they were able to fix your fridge, be sure to wash down the surfaces with bleach and rinse well, then let dry and cool for 24 hours before adding back any food. BTW, when our fridge broke and was repaired, we rented one for a week so we'd have cold storage.

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