Anything from a sudden heatwave, to an aggressive storm and other natural events, can cause your power to fail suddenly. While a last-minute power outage would present a serious problem for anyone - it can be particularly problematic for kitchens, wherein maintaining the safety of foods is of upmost importance.
In order to protect your business, and the food it's built on, it's important to remember that when the power goes out, there are special food safety measures you'll need to take. For instance, perishable foods such as meat, eggs, and milk cannot be stored above 40 degrees for over two hours. If a power outage is short, then you may survive without any issue, however, you should know how to save your food when refrigerators lose energy for longer periods of time. By planning ahead and preparing, you can save your perishables, and your company.
One of the best ways to prepare your kitchen for potential power outages, is to place real-time temperature monitoring systems within your freezer and refrigerator. This will give you a precise indication of when the temperature in your freezer begins to drop below 0°F, or the temperature in your refrigerator drops below 40°F. Other ways to prepare include:
- Purchasing block and dry ice, and placing them in storage for last-minute use.
- Keeping insulated coolers, and frozen gel packs available in case of an emergency
- Freezing items like milk, fresh meat, and poultry to keep them at a safer temperature for longer.
- Keeping the refrigerator and freezer full - this will help to maintain the temperature for longer.
- Grouping food items together in both the freezer and the refrigerator.
What to Do During an Outage
Regardless of whether you've prepared for an upcoming disaster or not, it's important to know what to do when the power actually does go out. For instance, having a quick-response temperature probe available that allows you to check the internal temperature of food will ensure that you remove any items from your kitchen that have entered into the temperature "danger zone". At the same time, when the power is out, make sure that you;
- Transfer food to a cooler filled with frozen gel packs or ice if the power is out for longer than four hours. Ensure that there is enough ice to maintain a temperature of 40°F of below.
- Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed when attempting to maintain the internal temperature for longer.
- A freezer that is half full safely holds food for up to 24 hours, whereas a full freezer can safely hold food for 48 hours. Use ice, or dry ice to help keep your freezer cold for longer. Remember not to touch dry ice with bare hands, or place it into direct contact with food.
- During snowstorms, do not place any perishable foods out into the snow - while it might seem like a good idea, outside temperatures can vary and food can easily be exposed to unsanitary conditions. Instead, make ice by filling buckets of water and leaving them outside to freeze.
Following a Power Outage
Once the power outage is over, and refrigeration system hasn't had power for more than 2 hours, it's important to figure out whether any of the items left within the refrigerator are safe to keep. Importantly, some items and condiments can be ok to keep, though it's worth noting that most dairy and meat products should be thrown away immediately.
Using your digital thermometer, or temperature probe, you should be able to get an accurate reading of the temperatures of all the foods in your kitchen. Any meat or dairy that has gone above 40°F can present a danger. The Foodsafety.gov website includes a list of which items are safe to keep, and which should be thrown away after a power outage.