Food safety during loadshedding

Loadshedding occurs often in South Africa. Other countries in the northern parts of Africa and the Middle East, also experience power outages on an average of 23.5 times a month which lasts on average 9.4 hours at a time. South-East Asia is hit with an average of 17 power outages a month, lasting over an hour each time.

These outages have a direct impact on food safety. Three factors are at play here – the length of the outage, its frequency of it and where food is stored.

One key fact to remember is: As long as it is cold, food should be safe.

Food in a refrigerator may be safe as long as:

-Power outages do not last longer than four hours
-the fridge door is closed
-the temperature of the refrigerator was at 4 °C when load shedding started.
-Food safety issues including spoiling are especially likely to occur with perishable goods such as fresh meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, and leftover food (depending on how long they were stored before load shedding started).

The recommended temperature for the fridge to operate at, for food to remain safe to consume, is 4°C. It is therefore a better option to discard perishable food stored in a fridge that operates at a temperature higher than 4°C, especially when load shedding took place for two or more hours.

Different bacteria grow at various temperatures. For every 1°C increase above that minimum growth temperature, the bacteria growth rate will double (depending on the type, living environment and access to nutrients). It is therefore essential to keep the door closed to ensure that the refrigerator stays as cold as possible during a power outage

If a freezer door is kept closed, frozen food will stay frozen for up to 48 hours. Perishable food must be cooked as soon as possible if they begin to defrost. Refreezing perishable food is dangerous.

Given the price of food, one is hesitant to discard it, but weighed against the risks of consuming unsafe food – it is best to discard it. Some perishables might not necessarily smell or taste much different but may be filled with bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.

If you know the loadshedding schedule, you can prepare for it as follows:

-Ensure that the temperature in the refrigerator is 4 °C or as near to it as possible.
-Frozen leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry, fish, and other goods should be moved from the fridge 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 fridge.

-Take special note of purchasing long-lasting items, such as unopened canned foods and sterile or ultra-heat heated temperature drinks. These have a lengthy shelf-life outside of the fridge, however, once they’re opened, they too need to be chilled.

-Another method used to keep perishable goods as cold as possible for as long as possible is to place ice packs around the items in the fridge.


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