Perhaps nothing gets more of a workout in the office place – be it big or small – than the company refrigerator. Workers jockey for real estate in the fridge on a daily basis, looking to make sure their home-brought goodies will stay fresh while they labor away at their desks, waiting for the stroke of noon to go on break.
Without fail, however, there are always more than a handful of employees who never retrieve their snacks, taking up space for days on end, with no one throwing them out out of fear that the owner might retrieve them on the same day they're chucked. Though it may be wasteful, these situations are typically rectified by a monthly clean out.
But with this being the winter season – where power outages can be common due to heavy wind and/or precipitation – you may be wondering what the operating procedure is for refrigerated food when the electricity goes out. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released some helpful tips on the best course of action to take before, during and after a power outage.
Before an outage
It's almost impossible to predict when the power is going to to turn off, but meteorologists and power companies do forecast when outages may be a problem. That being said, the following tips should apply throughout the year. For example, the ideal temperature inside a refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be at or below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to determine what the temperatures are in each respective section and adjust the temp controls accordingly.
It's always a good idea to have ice available, which you can purchase by the bag or by filling up ice trays with cold water. But if a power outage is forecast, make sure that you have extra ice on hand, as this will lengthen the amount of time food stays fresh before it spoils.
During an outage
Hopefully, the electricity will come back on within hours of going out. But the longer it goes, the more important it is to keep the freezer and refrigerator doors closed. Provided its not opened frequently, foods that's inside should remain cold for about four hours, without the electricity needed to cool it down, FDA noted. The freezer, meanwhile, should keep things frozen for as long as two days. The length of time will largely depend on how full the freezer and refrigerators are with food. Naturally, the more there is, the less likely it is that the food will stay cold for long.
After an outage
Whether the food inside a refrigerator is safe to eat will depend on how long the power was off. The FDA says that outages lasting four hours or less are safe for most foods, but not all. For example, meat, poultry, milk and eggs may need to be thrown out if the temperature within the fridge was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or longer. Everything in the freezer should be safe, as rarely do power outages last for more than 24 to 48 hours.
Power outages were problematic for many in New England recently, as the region was pelted with between two and three feet of snow in states like Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. Due to winds peaking at 80 miles per hour on the coast, ten of thousands of residents and businesses lost their electricity for extended periods. At one point during the blizzard, 25,000 power outages were reported to utility companies.