Food safety during power outage
October 31, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

Can I eat this? Sandy power outage edition.

My power has been out for almost 48 hours. I'm assuming all processed foods in the fridge have to be thrown out, but I hesitate with a couple items because they feel somewhat cold through the plastic, look fine, and haven't been opened. I'm wondering about store-bought hummus (includes red peppers, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, etc.) and fake turkey slices (Tofurkey brand). I've been avoiding opening the fridge door more than absolutely necessary (so as not to let warm air in — although there's no heat in my apartment anyway). The fridge is stuffed almost completely full, which is supposed to keep things colder. The foods are well within the expiration dates on the labels. Again, by default, I would throw out any processed food that's been in a nonworking fridge for 48 or even 24 hours, but I just wanted to check. Thanks in advance.
posted by John Cohen to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hummus goes bad very quickly, I wouldn't touch it. Also sliced tofu has a lot of surface area for germs to grow on. In any case I would cook it thoroughly first.
posted by Mai2k3 at 4:15 PM on October 31, 2012

I'd eat the hummus without a second thought, the fake turkey slices I wouldn't eat even if the fridge were working properly :-)
posted by foodgeek at 4:17 PM on October 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd eat them both.
posted by holgate at 4:19 PM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: Mai2k3: I can't cook anything, my power is out.

foodgeek: I'm asking if it's safe for me to eat, not if you would like to eat it.
posted by John Cohen at 4:23 PM on October 31, 2012

Do you have a meat thermometer? Just check the temperature of the item -- if it is warmer than 40F, throw it out. Why add food poisoning to your misery!
posted by LittleMy at 4:26 PM on October 31, 2012

You can do a Reliable sniff test on the hummus. It usually holds its ground in cool temps.

As for the tofu turkey, I wouldn't eat it regardless of Sandy! That stuff is loaded with bad things.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:36 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Processed food is actually more likely to fine (compared to non-processed food) because it's generally pumped full o' preservatives.

For the fake turkey, eat it if it smells bad. (That's a good general rule.) Go ahead and eat the hummus, it's chickpeas and garlic and tahini and oil, and none of those things spoil easily.

Always: SMELL IT. Then decide.
posted by Kololo at 4:39 PM on October 31, 2012

Hummus is fine. If the Tofurky has not been opened previously I would eat it. It's vegetable matter, and doesn't spoil as quickly as meat.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2012

According to this site, if the hummus was opened, it should probably be tossed. If it seems obviously bad in appearance or smell, toss it. If it isn't pasteurized or if it lacks preservatives, it's probably risky.

Your package is unopened, so if it smells OK after you open it, the deciding factor might be pasteurization: if it's been Louised, go for it; if not, maybe hunt down a can of garbazno beans and some lemon juice.

They have a general what-food-is-safe after a storm page here, too.
posted by maudlin at 4:54 PM on October 31, 2012

Response by poster: Again, both items are unopened. However, the hummus does say "no preservatives."
posted by John Cohen at 5:14 PM on October 31, 2012

Best answer: We have a thermometer for the inside of our fridge because of meds we keep in there. Power went out at 8:30ish for us. At 10:30, I noted that the fridge was 40 degrees and the freezer was 4. At 8:30 Tuesday morning, without having opened either one, the fridge was at 50 and the freezer was 20. Thus, I wouldn't eat it, because of how quickly our stuff warmed above safe temps without even opening the door.
posted by xo at 5:33 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

No preservatives means that no carcinogenic chemicals were added to this specifically to kill bacteria.

Which is not the same thing as saying nothing in this will prevent the growth of bacteria. Salt, lemon juice and sufficient quantities of pepper can have a significant preservative effect.

Then again my threshold for eating stuff is substantially lower than most people after years of living in third world countries and I don't mind a little mild diarrhea. The odds of an actual pathological variety of bacteria living in your hummus are just astronomically low.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 5:38 PM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would smell test the hummus and if it passed try a small amount.

The Tofurkey slices I would totally eat. I've accidentally left those out (unopened) on the counter all night and they've been fine. So I suspect a fairly cool environment has kept them fine.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:00 PM on October 31, 2012

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