Gaye Levy | Activist Post
Recently, 600 million people in India were without power for two days. According to news sources, the suspected cause was one of simple supply and demand: more people wanted power than the Indian infrastructure was able to deliver. It was not only lights out – but lights out for half of the population. Even I have a problem wrapping my brain around a blackout of that magnitude.
It is important to note that in India, for many, electrical power is a luxury, where according to a recent census, one third of the households do not have enough to power even light a single light bulb. Still, when the grid went down so did transportation systems, manufacturing systems, communications systems and of course, household systems.
And what about those household systems? The first thing that may come to mind is air conditioning in a climate where there is 80% humidity in 90 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Sweltering heat can be uncomfortable, yes, but what about refrigeration? How do you keep food safe when the temperature is 90 and the power grid is down for longer than a few hours?
Keeping Food Safe When the Electricity Goes Out
1. Place appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer. After a power outage, check the temperature to determine whether your food is still safe to consume. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
2. Try to keep your freezer as full as possible. Fill empty juice or milk jugs with water and keep them in the freezer (unless you need the space for food, of course). If the power grid goes down, you can use these frozen blocks of ice to maintain the cold temperature in your refrigeration and/or to keep the temperature in your freezer colder for a longer period. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours but only 24 hours if half-full.
In addition, if there are warnings of a severe storm on the way, freeze additional water in one-quart plastic storage bags. They are small enough to fit in around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold and won’t make a mess when the ice melts.
3. Have a minimum of a week’s supply of ready-to-eat food that does not require cooking or refrigeration after being opened.
4. Do not open the refrigerator and freezer doors unnecessarily. Take out what you need quickly then close the doors and keep them closed. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if the door is kept closed.
5. Have coolers on hand that can be used to store the refrigerated foods that you think you will need for the short term. Use the frozen jugs of ice from your freezer to keep the food in your cooler cold. This will mitigate having to open and close the refrigerator door unnecessarily.
6. When the power comes back, check the the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard perishable food that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
7. Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to the touch. With frozen food, check for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
8. Frozen foods that have been partially defrosted during an outage should be cooked or reheated to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees.
9. When in doubt, dump it. And never, ever taste food to determine whether it is safe to eat.