Food Safety Month – How to Survive a Power Outage in Your Commercial Kitchen
By – The Editor
September is National Food Safety Education Month which is the theme for our three blogs for the month. Our first blog focuses on the “pre-cooking stage” of safe storage and protecting your inventory in the event of a power outage.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating events for a commercial kitchen operator is encountering a power outage. You have no idea of how long the power outage will last, yet need to ensure the food you have stored remains safe for your customers. Depending on the nature of your business and the number of customers you serve each day, the loss of your inventory can have a major impact on your operation. Here we offer advice on how to protect your inventory and avoid food wastage during a power outage.
How Long Does Food Remain Safe in a Commercial Refrigerator and Freezers?
According to the USDA, you can keep perishables such as meat, fish, eggs, and poultry in your commercial refrigerator for up to four hours without power. However, the refrigerator needs to be set at the optimal safe temperature and the door must remain closed to ensure food safety during this time. A full freezer can maintain safe temperatures for up to 48 hours, while a half-full freezer can only last 24. In both cases keeping the door closed is key.
When Must You Dispose of Food Following a Power Outage?
Once temperatures rise to above 40 °F for more than 2 hours you are faced with a long list of food items that must be discarded. This includes all raw meats including soy meat substitutes, most dairy products, prepared foods/leftovers, and more. But truly, when in doubt you should always throw food out.
How to Protect Your Inventory During a Power Outage
Following these steps may help you avoid loss of inventory:
● Write Down the Time: As soon as the power outage occurs, make sure someone records the time. This will allow you to watch the clock and record when the food in your refrigerator and freezer is no longer salvageable. If you don’t mark down the time, you will have to err on the side of caution and dispose of your inventory.
● Stick to the 2 to 4-hour rule: As mentioned above, in a functioning refrigerator that maintains accurate, consistent temperatures you can keep food for up to four hours. Having a dependable refrigerator with a reliable thermometer is key to food preservation during an outage. You can avoid having to discard your inventory as the refrigerator will be slower to rise to the unsafe mark over 40 °F for more than 2 hours.
● Commercial Refrigerator and Freezer Maintenance: This is by far the easiest way to ensure you avoid food spoilage. Professional checks and repairs help reduce the risk for unsafe temperatures during a power outage. A refrigerator or freezer that is operating at peak performance will maintain a consistent, safe temperature for the four hours allowable. As a result, you are less likely to see the temperature rise above unsafe levels too soon.
● Train Your Team: Make sure everyone on your team understands the procedure. Assign team members who will be responsible for marking down the time and keeping track of the hours, so you always know when the food is past safe eating.
Although you can’t control power outages, you can take steps to reduce the risk of inventory loss.
Did you know – Your refrigerator condenser transfers heat to the outside. Dirty condensers struggle to release heat, so having your condenser coils cleaned regularly extends the life of your unit, reduces your utility bills, and cools quicker.