The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


June 17, 2013

What Do I Keep?

Monday, June 17, 2013 — Last week’s storm certainly caught everyone by surprise, me included.  If you’re like me, cleaning the refrigerator and freezer out is on your to-do list.  Here are a few tips for the next time you lose power or information that will help you in determining what to discard, what to keep and what to refreeze.  Once the power is restored, you need to evaluate each food item for safety.  If you have any doubt, throw it out!   During a power outage you should keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open them as little as possible.  A closed refrigerator will keep food below 41 degrees F only about four hours after a power loss.  If you don’t have a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer, that might be one of your next purchases.  You can find thermometers for refrigerators and freezers at your local hardware or in the kitchen section at department or large chain stores.  



The following items should be discarded if above 41 degrees for more than two hours -  meats, dairy products such as milks, cream, sour cream and yogurt, opened liquid baby formula, eggs, custards and puddings, soft cheeses such as blue, cottage, ricotta, mozzarella, cream and queso blanco or fresco, shredded cheese, low-fat cheese, and creamy based dressings.  Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish should be discarded if above 50 degrees F for more than eight hours.  There are; however, some foods that are safe if held above 41 degrees F for more than two hours – butter and margarine, hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, parmesan, provolone and Romano, peanut butter, jelly, catsup, mustard, pickles, opened vinegar-based dressings and uncut fruits and vegetables.    Check these foods for evidence of mold, smell and sliminess.  Discard if in doubt.



Many of us experienced or are still experiencing multiple days of power outages.  A closed freezer can keep food below 41 degrees F for up to 48 hours if full and kept cold.  If your freezer is not full, group packages together so they will retain cold temperatures.  If you have room, it’s always a good idea to have frozen gallon jugs of water in the freezer; these will help keep the temperature low should the power go out.  Most meats that still contain ice crystals and feel as cold as if refrigerated can be refrozen.  If thawed and held above 41 degrees F for more than two hours, meats should be discarded.  Frozen milk, egg products, cheese and breads can be refrozen if they contain ice crystals, although food quality loss is a consideration with some foods.  Hard cheeses, breads, pie crusts, bread dough, nuts and breakfast items such as waffles, pancakes, bagels, can be refrozen if thawed and held above 41 degrees F for more than two hours although food quality may be a consideration.  Pizzas, frozen entrees, casseroles should only be refrozen if they still contain ice crystals and feel as cold as if refrigerated.  If these items have thawed and are held above 41degrees F for more than two hours, they should be discarded.


Before discarding food, take pictures and/or make a list of spoiled food.  Damaged food may be covered by your insurance policy.  Never feed food that is considered unsafe to your pets.  Place discarded food in plastic garbage bags for disposal or compost if suitable for composting.  If you have a specific question concerning food safety during a power outage or would like a copy of Food Safety Information Sheets:  Recovering from a Storm, be sure to call NC Cooperative Extension and ask for Lori Ivey or Courtney Swain at 704-983-3987.


Go to this link for freezers and for the refrigerator. Print a copy to keep with your important papers for the next time as this is just the beginning of the summer storm season.


About the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is the largest outreach program at North Carolina State University. Based in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cooperative Extension reaches millions of North Carolina citizens each year through local centers in the state’s 100 counties and with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The N.C. Cooperative Extension Service’s mission is to partner with communities to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolinians. Learn more at




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