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Food safety in a power outage

Published on July 18, 2018

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Even though power outages lasting several hours are rare in Quebec, they still can happen. What do you do to keep refrigerated and frozen food safe in a power outage? Does your home insurance offer reimbursement for spoiled food? The L’Unique General Insurance team has explored this topic in depth!

  1. Is there something a person can do to plan ahead for emergencies lasting several hours?

    Yes! Putting a thermometer inside your refrigerator can help you sort your refrigerated food in the event of a lengthy outage. If you check the thermometer, you will know right away whether or not the safe temperature range (0 – 4 °C according to the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec) has been maintained, even if power has not yet been restored.

  2. How do you keep refrigerated and frozen food safe during a power outage?

    Keep the refrigerator or freezer door closed as much as possible.

  3. Does home insurance cover spoiled food after a power outage?

    Normally, spoiled food are covered by your insurance if the outage occurs in your primary residence. Contact your broker to know for sure, and check the limits that might apply.

    If you decide to file a claim for spoiled food, don’t forget to jot down the items you have to discard.

  4. How do you know what you need to throw out and what is still safe to eat?

    Base your decisions on the length of the power outage, the type of food and the internal refrigerator or freezer temperature.

    Refrigerated food

    You only need sort the food items if the internal temperature of your refrigerator is more than 4 °C or if the outage lasted more than six hours. If so, you should discard:

    • Food that seems deteriorated
    • Open containers of vegetable cocktail, yogourt or baby formula
    • Any of the following items, as well as any prepared dish or other food containing them as ingredients: eggs, meat, fish, seafood, pasta (cooked or fresh), milk, cream, soft cheese, cream cheese, unpasteurized juice, prepared vegetables (e.g. in soup or a salad), cooked vegetables.

    Frozen food

    • Outage lasting less than 24 hours
      Check to see if the food is still frozen. If it isn’t or you’re not sure, decide what to do based on the information in the point below.
    • Outage lasting more than 24 hours
      Carefully check all the food that was stored in the freezer.
      • You can refreeze: :
        • Any food item that is still hard in the middle and that has frost on the packaging.
        • Fully thawed fruit, pasteurized juice, hard cheese and bread, as long as it has not been exposed to temperature over 4°C and the packaging is intact.
      • Any raw food that has thawed but kept at a temperature of less than 4°C can be cooked and eaten right away or cooked and refrozen.
      • Discard any thawed perishable food items that have been exposed to temperature over 4°C.

Your insurance broker is there to help you prevent losses. Feel free to contact him or her!

For more info:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Food Safety in an Emergency

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