BAC Fighter Julie Buck Discusses How to Handle Food During a Power Outage

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, University of Idaho Extension

During a power outage, the clock starts ticking on the safety of your perishable foods. If you are aware of approaching high electricity use, summer storm, tornado or hurricane, you can be prepared.

BEFORE: If you are able to prepare in advance, make sure you are using appliance thermometers in your fridge and freezer. Have a cooler or two at the ready, filled with ice or several frozen gel packs. Research where dry ice or block ice are available near you.

DURING: Once the power goes out, be mindful of time and temperature. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Your refrigerator will hold a safe temperature for about four hours. Your freezer, if packed full, will hold food at a safe temperature for about 48 hours with no power — at half full, the time decreases to 24 hours. Food is safe to refreeze if it still has ice crystals or if the freezer did not rise above 40 °F.

AFTER: When the power is back on, check the temperature inside your freezer and refrigerator by looking at the thermometer. If the temperature is still 0 ⁰F or below for freezer and 40 ⁰F or below for refrigerator, your food should be fine. NEVER taste food to determine its safety. The following foods are safe if held above 40 ⁰F for more than 2 hours: hard cheeses, grated Parmesan cheese, butter or margarine, opened fruit juices, jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, ketchup, olives, pickles, and Worcestershire, soy, barbecue and Hoisin sauces, peanut better, opened vinegar-based dressing, bread products, breakfast breads, fruit pies, fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices, uncut raw vegetables and fruit. What you should throw out: meat, poultry or seafood products; soft cheeses and shredded cheeses; milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products; opened baby formula; eggs and egg products; dough, cooked pasta; cooked or cut produce.

After a flood, do not eat any food that may have touched flood water. True story: earlier this year bottled peaches were brought into the Bingham County Extension office which survived the 1976 Teton Dam Flood with the jar still sealed! It was properly discarded. Discard food not in waterproof containers; screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped tops are not waterproof. Discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods. Discard any damaged cans that have swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening. Mix a sanitizing solution of 1 Tablespoon unscented bleach with one gallon water to disinfect pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and undamaged all-metal cans after removing the label. Relabel with a permanent marker.

Preparing for disasters in advanced is helpful to provide peace of mind. Knowing how to manage our food supply before, during and after a disaster will be essential to living. For more information contact your local extension office or visit Partnership for Food Safety Education’s website at

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, and Family and Consumer Sciences educator employed at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at (208) 785-8060 or

** Reprinted from Idaho State Journal. **


Taking a Page from Produce Pro

A 25-student Healthy School Committee at Sir Arthur Carty Elementary School of London, Ontario, is turning favorite family recipes into a school-wide good health project.

Under the leadership of Elizabeth Hubbell, a public health nurse for the Middlesex London Health Unit, the school was awarded a grant of $2,400 through the province to partner with teachers and create the Carty-Cuisine Cookbook.

The student committee connected with families to collect home recipes aimed at inspiring students and families to create healthy and delicious meals passed down from generations and originating from a variety of cultural backgrounds. With permission from the Partnership for Food Safety Education, the Carty-Cuisine Cookbook features a consumer fact sheet from the ProducePro campaign. This flyer reminds families to check fresh produce for bruising and damage; clean hands and surface areas; rinse fresh produce; separate fresh produce from other foods; and chill cut produce below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

The cookbook will be distributed to more than 350 families. It will provide a platform for families to gather, eat healthy foods, and learn the importance of safe food handling techniques.

Elizabeth Hubbell is a public health nurse for the Middlesex London Health Unit. She can be reached at

Webinar an Opportunity for Class at Eastern Illinois University

Lauri J. DeRuiter-Willems teaches an undergraduate health marketing course in the Department of Health Promotion at Eastern Illinois University. The class had just finished discussing social marketing in class when Lauri saw an announcement of the Partnership’s webinar “Using Community-Based Social Marketing to Change Behavior.”

Lauri immediately saw the opportunity and assembled her students to watch the webinar live as a class on Feb. 15. Their assembled group included 15 undergraduate students and two professors.

The students reported that the information shared in the webinar gave them “real life” examples of using social marketing in health promotion efforts. Also, the information followed the guidelines set forth in CDCynergy Social Marketing training modules which are the basis of the class’ unit on social marketing.

“I am happy that I saw the announcement for this webinar. I was able to include my students so they could further develop their knowledge of social marketing, and see ways to use it in their future internships and careers,” said Lauri.

What a great way to extend the reach of the PFSE webinars! Thank you, Lauri!

Lauri J. DeRuiter-Willems, Eastern Illinois University

Extension educator Jeannie Nichols publishes Easter and Passover food safety article

Spring is nearly here and with it comes some special holidays and holiday foods. Using a food thermometer when preparing meals is essential to serving safe food to our family and friends. Cooking food thoroughly is one of the four steps in preventing food borne illness according to the national “Fight BAC!™” campaign. The other three steps are: having clean hands and surfaces, separating raw and cooked foods and chilling leftovers promptly.

Here is some food safety advice from the USDA for foods typically served at spring holidays.

• EGGS: Hard-cooked eggs should be cooked thoroughly. Refrigerate eggs within two hours of cooking and use them within a week.

• DYEING AND HUNTING EGGS: To dye hard-cooked eggs, use a food-safe coloring and place them in the refrigerator within two hours. Hard-cooked eggs for an egg hunt must be prepared with care to prevent cracking the shells. If the shells crack, bacteria could contaminate the inside. The total time for hiding and hunting eggs should not be longer than two hours. The “found” eggs must be scrubbed with a brush or cloth under running water, dried and then re-refrigerated until eaten. You could also hide plastic eggs and then use the refrigerated decorated eggs to eat.

• BEEF AND LAMB are often served at spring dinners. Marinated meat must be kept in the refrigerator before cooking. Roasts, steaks, and chops should be cooked to at least 145°F in an oven set no lower than 325°F. Ground meats, on the other hand, should be cooked to 160°F.

• HAM: Both vacuum-packaged fully cooked and canned hams can be eaten cold just as they come from their packaging. To reheat them, set the oven no lower than 325°F and heat to an internal temperature of 140°F. Cook-before-eating hams must be baked in an oven set no lower than 325°F and reach 160°F before serving. Hams can also be safely cooked in a microwave oven, other countertop appliances and on the stove top.

• TURKEY OR CHICKEN: To defrost frozen poultry, place it in the refrigerator allowing one day for every four pounds. These birds can also be safely thawed by submerging the wrapped poultry in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. When roasting whole poultry, set the oven to no lower than 325°F and heat to an internal temperature of 165°F in the thigh as measured with a food thermometer. If stuffing whole poultry, make the dressing immediately before inserting it loosely in the cavity. The stuffing must reach 165°F before removing the bird from the oven.

• HANDLING LEFTOVERS: No perishable foods should stand at room temperature for more than two hours. Place leftovers in shallow containers, refrigerate, and use or freeze within three to four days. Thoroughly reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Using a thermometer lets you know that you are cooking your food thoroughly and at the same time you will know that it isn’t overcooked and dry!

Access the full article on The Daily Reporter website.

Jeannie Nichols is a food safety educator for Michigan State University Extension. She can be reached at or 517-439-9301. 

Jeannie Nichols, Michigan State University Extension

Cut Food Waste and Maintain Food Safety at Home

(This blog post was developed from a Knowledge Exchange event sponsored by the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education on Jan. 16, 2018. Access a recording of the 30-minute event.)

Howard Seltzer, FDA National Food Safety Education Advisor

Reducing the risk of foodborne illness for consumers is the primary focus of the Partnership for Food Safety Education. One in six Americans get a foodborne illness each year. In our work as food safety educators we can support consumers with actions they can take to reduce cross-contamination and to handle food in a way that helps them manage risk of germs like salmonella, campylobacter, E-coli and listeria monocytogenes.

Food waste is food that is discarded or lost uneaten. Sometimes in food safety education we encourage food to be tossed uneaten if it can pose a health risk to a consumer. Food waste is a huge challenge to our natural resources, our environment, and our pocketbooks.

Howard Seltzer, a National Food Safety Education Advisor at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has been a terrific supporter of the Partnership and a true colleague in food safety education. Howard recently shared information with the BAC Fighter community on food waste and food safety.

Q: What is the connection between food waste and food safety?

Food waste by consumers can result from fears about food safety. Some of these fears relate to misunderstandings about what food product dating actually means. Also, consumers can be uncertain about how to store perishable foods.

Q: What are the basics of understanding food product dating?

Except for infant formula, dates on food products are not required by any Federal law or regulation, although some states do have requirements for them. Most of the food dates consumers see are on perishable foods. These are foods likely to quickly spoil, decay or become unsafe to eat if not kept refrigerated at 40° F or below or frozen at 0° F or below. Perishables include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Producers of perishable food use dates to help ensure that consumers buy or use them while the products are at what the producers consider their best quality.

  • Sell by date indicates that a product should not be sold after that date if the buyer is to have it at its best quality.
  • Use by date or Best by date is the maker’s estimate of how long a product will keep at its best quality.

These are quality dates only, not safety dates. If stored properly, a food product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality after its Use by or Best by date.

Q: What are tools that BAC Fighters can use in educating consumers about storing and handing perishable foods?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute cooperatively developed an app called “The FoodKeeper”. This app tells you how best to store perishables and how long they will keep safely. “The FoodKeeper” app is a complete guide to how long virtually every food available in the United States will keep its quality and flavor in the pantry, in the refrigerator, and in the freezer. You can download the FoodKeeper as a mobile app on your Android or Apple devices. You also can access it at

Q: What are some practical grocery shopping and eating tips that can help consumers manage their food at home?

Seltzer: First of all, don’t buy more perishable food than you can reasonably consume before it reaches its maximum storage time. For example, prepackaged luncheon meats will keep two weeks when stored in the refrigerator or three to five days if refrigerated after opening. Plan your meals and use shopping lists. Think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten or used. Before you shop, check your fridge and pantry to avoid buying an item that you already have.

Also, avoid impulse and bulk purchases, especially fresh produce and dairy that have limited shelf life. Promotions encouraging purchase of unusual or bulk products often result in consumers buying foods outside their typical needs or family preferences. These foods may end up in the trash.
Lastly, when eating out, become a more mindful eater. If you’re not terribly hungry, request smaller portions. Bring your leftovers home and refrigerate or freeze them within two hours.

Q: Potential for waste of these foods is high for perishable foods. What are the most important tips around storing perishables?

Seltzer: Here are a few important tips on storing of perishable foods so that you can avoid food waste. Make sure the temperature of your refrigerator is at or below 40° F. This will ensure perishables are stored safely. Next, avoid “over packing” your fridge. Cold air must circulate around refrigerated foods to keep them properly chilled. Wipe up spills in your refrigerator immediately. This action will reduce the risk of cross contamination where bacteria from one food get spread to other foods in your refrigerator. Finally, check your fridge often to keep track of what you have and what needs to be reheated and eaten or put in the freezer for later use. Leftovers should be used within 3-4 days. You can avoid wasting food by planning to eat these leftovers within the 3-4 days.

Q: What’s the difference between spoilage bacteria and the bacteria that can cause a foodborne illness?

Seltzer: Most people would not choose to eat spoiled food. However, if they did, they probably would not get sick. Spoilage bacteria can cause fruits and vegetables to get mushy or slimy, or meat to develop a bad odor, but they do not generally make you sick. Pathogenic bacteria cause illness. They grow rapidly in the Danger Zone-the temperatures between 40 °F (4.4 °C) and 140 °F (60 °C) and do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food. Food that is left too long at unsafe temperatures could be dangerous to eat, but smell and look just fine.

Check out these quality resources on reducing food waste while maintaining food safety at home:

Knowledge Exchange recording

FDA Article on Food Waste and Food Safety

Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart (PDF)

FDA Food Waste Fact Sheet (PDF)

“Home Canning and Botulism” Article

FoodKeeper app: Android Devices | Apple Devices