How to keep food safe when the power goes out

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A tree downed by Tuesday's high winds that landed on a car along Downington Avenue in Salt Lake City, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

The recent windstorms have left thousands of Utah residents without power and the potential loss of food in refrigerators and freezers is a cause for concern.

Utah State University Extension Services offers these tips to keep your food safe when the power is out for extended periods of time.

• Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Open them briefly and only if necessary.

• If full, most freezers will keep food frozen for 48-60 hours, depending on the type of food and the beginning freezer temperature.

• Place a thermometer in the front of the fridge or freezer to check temperatures. Knowing the highest temperature a food has reached is the most important factor in determining whether you can keep it and it is safe to eat.

• If power is not back on after 48-60 hours, frozen food may start to thaw and refrigerated foods may move out of the safe 40 to 44 degree range.

• Consider asking a friend or neighbor if they have freezer space.

• Another option is to place dry ice in your freezer. Some grocery stores carry dry ice. Handle it quickly, and always wear heavy gloves to prevent it from burning your hands. When purchasing dry ice, have it cut into small, usable sizes. Do not try to cut or chip it yourself.

• Place heavy cardboard on top of packages of frozen food in each compartment of your freezer and place dry ice on top of the cardboard. Close the freezer and do not open it again until you need to replace the dry ice or the power comes back on.(You may notice an off odor caused by carbonic acid, which is formed by the dry ice and moisture in the freezer. It is harmless. Simply leave the freezer door open for a few minutes to let it escape.)

• Some thawed foods can be re-frozen. However, the texture will not be as good. Other foods may need to be discarded. Here are some specific guidelines:

Meat and Poultry • Re-freeze if the freezer temperature stays at 40 F or below. Check each package, and discard if there are signs of spoilage such as an off color or off odor. Discard any packages that are above 40 F (or at room temperature).

Vegetables • Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or if the freezer temperature is 40 F or below. Discard packages that show signs of spoilage or that have reached room temperature.

Fruits • Re-freeze if they show no signs of spoiling. Thawed fruits may be used in cooking or making jellies, jams or preserves. Fruits survive thawing with the least damage to quality.

Shellfish and Cooked Foods • Re-freeze only if ice crystals are still present or the freezer is 40 degrees or below. If the temperature is above 40 F, throw these foods out.

Ice Cream • If partially thawed, throw it out. The texture of ice cream is off after thawing. If the temperature rises above 40 F, it could be unsafe.

Creamed Foods, Puddings and Cream Pies • Re-freeze only if freezer temperature is 40 F or below. Discard if the temperature is above 40 F.

Breads, Nuts, Doughnuts, Cookies and Cakes • These foods re-freeze better than most. They can be safely re-frozen if they show no signs of mold growth.