Safety of food that unfroze in freezer #764658 - Ask Extension

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Safety of food that unfroze in freezer #764658

Asked July 29, 2021, 3:25 PM EDT

Our freezer door was left open overnight for about eight hours. I know now that some thawing took place because the ice cream is still soft after the door has been closed for three hours. Is the food safe? I'm mainly concerned about the meat, but do you have information about how long different types of food are safe when thawed.

Multnomah County Oregon

Expert Response

Sorry to hear your freezer door was left open.  There are some safety concerns with the foods that have completely thawed and left at room temperature longer than 2 hours.  The ones we are most concerned about are the cooked ones which include any of the commercially or home prepared dishes, frozen vegetables because they were blanched, cooked meat  and fish.  

Because the freezer was still running you can probably salvage quite a bit of the food because it kept running all the while the door was open.  And if your freezer was pretty full it would take time to thaw the foods to room temperature. 

I would be concerned with the food that was in the door and on the shelves closest to the door. If there were cooked foods and they were are room temperature they might not be safe.  Fruit juices and bread products would be ok.  As for your meat, it they were still cold and had some ice crystals in them they will be ok however the quality might not be as good because in the thawing and refreezing process you broke down more cells and more liquid would be lost.  If they are well cooked then they will not be a safety issue.  

Your frozen fruits will be safe, ice cream probably ok but will probably a little grainy so use in a smoothie.  baked products are safe. 

We have a good hand out on what to do if the freezer stops you can download http://extension.oregonsate.edu/fch/food-preservation.   SP 50-470  What to do if the Freezer Stops. You might also like to call the Food Preservation/Safety Hotline open M-F  from 9 am-4 pm. and a certified Master Food Preserver can answer your specific questions regarding the safety of the food you have in your freezer.  The number is 1-800-354-7319.  

One suggestion is to always have a thermometer in your freezer so you can check the temperature before you refreeze.  I also have a bag of ice cubes in my freezer.  If something happens and the power goes off or door is left open then I can see what the condition of the ice cubes are and determine if everything thawed.   Always keep your freezer full is another good trick. I keep water bottles in mine.  It is not only a good source of emergency water but will help keep the food cold if something happens to the freezer and in this hot weather will help with energy bills.  

Good luck and thanks for using Ask Extension

Nellie Oehler

Nellie Oehler Replied July 29, 2021, 7:28 PM EDT

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