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Frozen Foods After a Disaster

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When anticipating a power failure (as prior to a flood or storm warning), set the refrigerator and freeze temperature to the coldest setting to build up a cooling reserve.

If flood water enters your freezer or refrigerator, dispose of all food not sealed in metal airtight cans or glass jars.

Foods in the Freezer

With the freezer closed, foods usually stay frozen at least a day, and perhaps two or three days, depending upon the quantity of insulation. Food in well fitted, well insulated 4 cubic foot home freezers will not begin to spoil in fewer than three (3) days; in 12 to 36-cubic-foot freezers, food will not begin to spoil in fewer than five (5) days, and may be all right 7 or 8 days if the food is very cold.

Thawing Rate

With the door closed, food in most freezers will stay below 40 degrees (F) up to three (3) days, even in summer. Thawing rate depends on:

  • The amount of food in the freezer. A full freezer stays cold longer than a partially full one.
  • The kind of food. A freezer filled with meat stays cold longer than a freezer filled with baked goods.
  • The temperature of the food. The colder the food the longer it will stay frozen.
  • The freezer. A well insulated freezer keeps food frozen longer than one with little insulation.
  • Size of the freezer. The larger the freezer, the longer food stays frozen (see above).

NOTE: Do not put hot foods into the freezer since this will increase the temperature. (Keep hot foods covered and discard if not eaten within two (2) hours. Meat should be kept above 140 degrees F.)

Emergency Measures

  • Keep the door closed.
  • If possible, move food to a locker plant. To move food safely, wrap it in newspapers or blankets, quilts, crumpled newspaper or excelsior.
  • Use dry ice if it is available. Wear gloves to handle dry ice and proceed as recommended.
  • Can the food if possible to do so under sanitary conditions, and with proper equipment.

When Food Has Thawed

You may safely re-freeze some foods if they still contain ice crystals, or if they have been kept at 40 degrees (FA) or below for no more than two (2) days. If the temperature is above 50 degrees (FA) throw the food away!

Canning: Foods that can not be refrozen but are safe to use may be canned immediately.

Treat completely thawed foods as follows:

  • Fruits: Refreeze fruits if they taste and smell good. Fruit that is beginning to ferment is safe to eat, but will have an . Such fruit could be used in cooking.
  • Frozen dinners: Do not refreeze frozen dinners that have thawed.
  • Vegetables: Do not refreeze thawed vegetables. Bacteria in these foods multiply rapidly. Spoilage may begin before bad odors develop. Such spoilage may be very toxic. Refreeze vegetables only if ice crystals remain throughout the package. If you question the condition of any vegetables, throw them out!
  • Meat and Poultry: Examine each package of thawed meat or poultry. If odor is offensive or questionable, or if the freezer temperature has exceeded 40 degrees (F) for two (2) hours or more, don't use them! Discard all stuffed poultry. Cook immediately thawed but unspoiled meat or poultry. After cooking, meat can be refrozen.
  • Fish and shellfish: These are extremely perishable! Do not refreeze unless ice crystals remain throughout the package. Seafood may be spoiled, even if it has no offensive odor.
  • Ice Cream: Do not refreeze melted ice cream. Discard, or consume it in the liquid form before off-flavor develops.

Cook thawed frozen foods and frozen dinners immediately if they are still cold. Do not refreeze. If any foods have an offensive or questionable odor, do not eat them!

This information taken from a pamphlet prepared by:

The Collier County Cooperative Extension Service
14700 Immokalee Road
Naples, FL 33964
239 353 4244