Food safety storage tips during a power outage
Power failures can be dangerous and costly for commercial kitchens and other food handling businesses. During periods of power outages, the effectiveness of refrigerators and freezers in keeping foodstuff cooled and frozen to safe temperatures is decreased. Kitchen staff must take precautions to ensure that food remains as safe as possible during such outages.
Safe and organised kitchens will have procedures put in place before the event of a power failure to ensure that a timely response can be made by kitchen staff. Having a contingency plan outlining the actions that must occur during a power outage ensures that staff can follow a standardised procedure to minimise the costs and risks associated with the loss of stock.
This procedural plan should include the following advice.
The most crucial concern to remember at the beginning of a power outage is to minimise the opening and closing of the refrigerator and freezer. Like an esky or icebox, these storage facilities will remain cool for a longer period during a power outage, providing the best possible chance for food to stay within a safe temperature range.
Bearing this in mind, the first step that kitchen staff should take during a power outage is to place all chilled items into whatever freezer space is available, as this will remain cooler for longer. If there is limited space available, the next possible solution is to place bagged ice under food packages with an insulating blanket on top.
After a power outage, different foods and ingredients will require careful assessment to ensure that spoiled foods are discarded. Generally, if the power is out for less than 2 hours, the food is okay to re-refrigerate or consume. If this time exceeds 2 hours but is less than 4 hours, the food is safe to consume but not re-refrigerate. After 4 hours, food should be discarded.
For more sensitive items such as raw meat and poultry, it is best to check temperatures using a thermometer to ensure they have not entered the danger zone (above 5 degrees Celsius). It is better to be safe than sorry with these items as food poisoning can leave a lasting poor impression on patrons and lead to potentially life-threatening illnesses because of food-borne bacteria.
Fildes Food Safety offers a range of tools to assist kitchen staff throughout power outages to ensure that safety is the primary concern. Items include temperature monitoring devices such as fridge and freezer thermometers and food safety posters, including the 2/4 Hour Rule.