The east coast of Australia has been copping some rain over the last few weeks. Recently a massive storm storm dumped a lot of rain in the Brisbane area. Thankfully it did not cause much in the way of blackouts.
The same cannot be said for the near cyclone which has just hit the areas around Sydney.Apparently up to a quarter of a million homes and businesses are without power. The electricity companies crews cannot fix wires, poles or other infrastructure until it is safe to do so. Therefore there is no certainty as to how long these many people will not have a working fridge or freezer.
So how long will the food keep in the their fridges and freezers?
I have just done an interview on the ABC radio in Sydney about exactly that, and I am sorry but it is not good news.
Fridges should operate between 0 and 5 C, it does not take long for the temperature to go above this and enter the Temperature Danger Zone. this is between 5 and 60C, which is the growth range for most food poisoning bacteria. To achieve shelf life we need to keep potentially hazardous foods (like; meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, cut fruit and vegetables, cooked rice & pasta) under 5C.
When a fridge loses power, the temperature inside it starts to increase, and after 4 hours, if the door is closed the temperature has probably gone above the all important 5C. So unless the food can be cooked and eaten or cooled and held cold afterwards, it will all need to be thrown out.
The only exception to this, are those foods that do not all bacteria to grow, like; chutneys, pickles, jams, vegemite, honey, bread, coffee, and other dry foods. Sometimes people keep these foods in their fridge and they will be safe for consumption.
But surely, food in the freezer will be OK, won’t it?
The freezer operates at -18C ideally and keeps food frozen solid. So if the door is kept closed, that food will be safe for consumption for up to 24 hours. At that point, it should be cooked and eaten straight away or cooled and held at less than 5C. If you cannot do this, the food will also have to be thrown out.
A lady I was just talking to in Sydney said that her dogs were going to eat well this week, but she would be living off stuff from the cupboard.
She is right, foods that are stored in the cupboard or pantry are what is known as shelf stable and will not allow food poisoning bacteria to grow. So everyone who is missing electricity in this or another emergency should be eating the food from the cupboard right now.
Remember to eat canned and packaged foods only if they are not damaged.
Keep safe in an emergency by staying away from power lines, dumping possibly dangerous foods (“if in doubt, chuck it out”) and drinking only boiled or bottled water.
Written by Rachelle Williams – The Green Food Safety Coach