Food safety is paramount during an emergency, whether that means power outages, localised flooding or a public health emergency that keeps you stuck indoors.
If you lose electricity, it’s important to take stock of your freezer and refrigerator. A fully packed, free-standing freezer (that has remained closed) will stay at acceptably cold temperatures for two to four days.
Place dry ice, a block of ice or several frozen gel packs in a well-insulated cooler; transfer perishables from the refrigerator to the cooler.
According to the US National Center for Home Food Preservation, a 50-pound block of dry ice will keep the contents of a full, 18-cubic-foot freezer cold for two days.
FOOD SAFETY GUIDELINES
The following partially defrosted foods may be safe to eat/refreeze if they still contain ice crystals or have been kept below 40F: beef, veal, lamb, pork, ground meat, casseroles, soups and stews, hard cheeses, juices, flours, nuts, packaged waffles and pancakes, frozen meals/convenience foods.
If dairy items, poultry, meat, seafood, fresh pasta, fresh greens, eggs, soy meat substitutes and leftovers have been held at 40F, or higher, for more than two hours, discard them.
If opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish, commercial garlic in oil or other spreads (or any salads made with those items) have been held at 50F, or above, for more than eight hours, throw them out, too.
The following items are safe (if they had been opened/refrigerated): peanut butter, jelly, mustard, ketchup, olives, pickles, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar-based dressings, fruit, raw vegetables and hard cheeses (including grated).
Never taste food to determine its safety, and do not rely on odour or appearance.
The United States Department of Agriculture website – usda.gov – offers a thorough rundown on how to keep food safe in an emergency, including a chart of what food items in your fridge and freezer to save or discard after a power outage.