Whenever there is a power outage, I get e-mails asking ” what foods can I save and what do I have to discard when my refrigerator has been off for hours?” I thought this would be a good time to remind you that the USDA web site has guidelines to help you decide which foods in your refrigerator and freezer are safe to keep if your power has been off. If you have questions that aren’t answered there, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854 (1-888-MPHotline) between 10 am and 4 pm EST weekdays or contact Ask Karen, the Food Safety and Inspection Service virtual representative at any time.
It is a good idea to print the information before you need it and store it with the candles and extra batteries. If the food in your refrigerator has been held above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for over 2 hours much of it will need to be discarded. Some of the things that may be kept if the temperature has been above 40 degrees for several hours longer are hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, and Romano, fresh and dried fruit, jelly, relish, barbecue and soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, and olives. The USDA recommends discarding opened Worcestershire sauce, fish and oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, and salad dressings with the exception of oil and vinegar dressing.