Media Release: Food safety during load shedding
For immediate release
27 September 2022
Load shedding occurs often in South Africa. The length and frequency of load shedding may have an impact on how safe the food is in a refrigerator.
Below are important advice and useful information on how to keep food safe during periods of loadshedding.
As long as it is cold, food should be safe.
Food in a refrigerator should be safe if there are no more than four hours of power outages; the refrigerator door is closed; and the temperature of the refrigerator was 4 °C at the start of load shedding.
Food safety issues, including spoiling, are especially likely to occur with perishable goods. Examples are:
- Fresh meat
- Fresh poultry
- Fresh fish
- Soft cheeses
- Possibly even leftovers, depending on how long they were in the fridge prior to load shedding.
The recommended temperature for refrigerators is 4°C or below, although in South Africa, consumer refrigerators often operate at higher temperatures.
It is then best to discard foods in the above list if the outage is longer than 2 hours AND where the fridge temperature is higher than 4°C. Keeping a thermometer in the fridge is the only way to monitor desired fridge temperatures.
Different bacteria start growing at different minimum temperatures, but for every 1°C increase above that minimum growth temperature, bacteria in food grows (double themselves) faster. It is therefore essential to keep the door closed to ensure that the temperature stays as low as possible during the power outage.
If the freezer door is kept closed, frozen food will stay frozen for around 48 hours. Perishable food must be cooked as soon as possible if they begin to thaw for any reason since they CANNOT be refrozen.
Given the price of food, one is hesitant to throw it out, yet you cannot taste or smell unhealthy food. Unsafe food may still smell and taste quite fine, but when a meal smells “wrong” it typically indicates deterioration and the consumer should not eat it.
If the load shedding schedule is known, one can prepare for it as follows:
- Ensure the temperature in the refrigerator is 4 °C or as near to it as feasible.
- Frozen leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry, fish, and other goods can be moved from the refrigerator to the freezer that you might not need right away.
- Buy fresh food in smaller quantities, prepare it fast, and enjoy it instead of buying it in bulk and storing it in the refrigerator for a long time if there is no freezer accessible.
- Consider purchasing long-lasting items, such as unopened canned foods and sterile or UHT drinks, all of which have a lengthy shelf life outside of the refrigerator, once they’re opened, they too need to be chilled.
- To keep perishable goods as cold as possible for as long as possible, you can also place ice packs around them in the fridge.