Health officials: Use care with refrigerated, frozen foods during outages

LITTLE ROCK — With icy roads and dark, cold homes at the forefront of peoples’ minds, a less obvious — but important — outcome of the recent power outages is the increased risk of food-borne illness as a result of improper food storage, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

People whose power has been out for more than two hours should consider refrigerator contents suspect, and if power was out for more than four hours, the contents should be considered unsafe.

Freezers are more likely to maintain appropriate temperatures than refrigerators, but are still at risk if power was out more than 24 hours.

Arkansas State epidemiologist Dr. Dirk Haselow said, “Foods most likely to no longer be safe after the outage include chicken or turkey, seafood, any ground meat, any dishes with raw eggs or mayonnaise, any foods with cream, and all milk products. These foods should definitely be discarded. However, all food items are at risk.

“Do not trust your sense of smell or taste to determine if the food is safe. Germs can grow on food at levels high enough to cause illness without changing the food’s taste.”

The Arkansas Department of Health accepts reports of food-borne illness via the internet: or by email at, and by phone at (501) 280-4364.