NEVADA CITY, Calif. October 8, 2019 – Power outages sometimes occur in Nevada County and a lack of electricity can pose risks to foods when reach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezers along with hot holding equipment are not working. Power surges can also cause damage to equipment and to the electrical system in the building. If a food facility relies on well water, power outages and surges can also result in a lack of water.
Plans and procedures should be in place to handle an electrical outage before one occurs. Below are some steps to be taken during and after a power outage in a commercial food facility.
Preparing for Scheduled Power Outages:
If you are advised about an upcoming power outage, plan to close your food facility until after power is restored and prior to opening and operating again, contact the Nevada County Department of Environmental Health (NCDEH) for guidance and/or schedule your inspection. Please take every precaution to ensure that food safety has not been compromised.
You should also plan to:
•Reduce the amount of potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) or ready-to-eat foods on site. For example, food deliveries can be cancelled until after the outage or move potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) to another location that has been approved by the NCDEH.
•Keep all reach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezer doors and lids closed for the duration of the power outage.
•Record temperatures of potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) and ready-to-eat foods left on site during the power outage. Record temperatures using a calibrated food thermometer.
•Follow the temperature guidance information provided in this document for all potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) and ready-to-eat foods left on site during the outage.
During A Power Outage:
•Close the facility.
•Write down the time when the power outage started. This will start the countdown of when foods inreach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezer units will need to be discarded. If no one is present when the outage starts, the local power company may be able to provide this information.
• Keep reach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezers doors closed as much as possible. If a cooler or freezer is an open display unit, transfer cold foods to a unit with sealed doors.
• DO NOT put hot foods into a cooler when the power is off as this will raise the temperature of the cooler much faster.
• Turn off light switches, equipment and computers in the facility to protect them from surge damage when the power is restored.
• Consider transporting food to an approved alternate location with adequate refrigeration or freezer space if you know that you will be without power for more than four hours. The Facility that you will plan to utilize shall be approved by NCDEH prior to the event, so that said facility can be inspected to determine that adequate space is available.
• Ensure that foods are transported in food grade or food safe coolers with ice packs to keep them at 35°F or less. Food in transport needs to be handled carefully and keeping the temperature well below the 41°F to ensure protection of food products.
• Cancel deliveries of potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) to reduce food waste if the outage is likely going to last more than one day.
• Contact NCDEH for additional questions or guidance, if needed.
After the Power Returns:
Plan to stay closed until all actions have been taken to ensure food safety.
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• Dispose of foods as directed by the information provided below or as directed by the NCDEH
• Consult with your insurance company to determine the necessary documentation for your insurance claim.
• Thoroughly clean and sanitize all reach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezers and hot holding units that had held foods that were discarded before restocking these units with new foods.
• Check that all electrical breakers, utilities and equipment are in good working condition. Surge damage may have occurred, or electronic settings may have been reset when the equipment was off.
• Check any well pumps, water treatment systems or other equipment that supply water to the building to ensure they are working properly.
• Check any sump or septic pumps to ensure they are working properly.
• Ensure that all reach-in refrigerators, walk-in refrigerators, reach-in freezers and walk-in freezers are operating normally and have reached a safe temperature of 41°F or below for refrigeration units and 0°F or below for freezer units or less before putting foods back into them.
• Make sure that hot water is available, especially if a hot water on-demand or other electrical hot water system is used.
• Clean and sanitize all food equipment and food preparation surfaces if the power outage lasts more than four hours as bacterial growth can occur on surfaces.
• Remember that appearance and odor are not good indicators of food safety, foods that look and smell fine may not be safe to consume.
• Contact NCDEH prior to opening.
When to Dispose Foods:
Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs) means foods that are not shelf stable and require time or temperature control to limit pathogenic micro-organism growth or toxin formation. This can include, but is not limited to, food of animal origins (meats), dairy products, cooked grains, cooked vegetables, and cut produce.
Ready-To-Eat Foods means foods that are in a form that is edible without additional preparation to achieve food safety and is intended for immediate consumption in the same state in which it is sold or distributed. Below is general guidance about discarding potentially hazardous foods (PHFs) and ready-to-eat foods after a power outage. If you are unsure, consult with the NCDEH.
Potentially Hazardous and Ready-to-Eat Cold-Held Foods:
• Discard PHFs and Ready-to-Eat foods that were above 41°F for more than 4 hours.
o This includes any animal/raw meats, dairy products, cooked grains (rice, beans, etc.), cooked vegetables and cut produce that were stored above 41°F for more than 4 hours.
Frozen Foods: • Discard any foods that show signs of thawing.
WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!