This article is about food safety, and not a happy ending I am afraid.
I have a freezer I keep in the garage as I buy food in bulk and create make-a-head recipes. So my freezer is stocked, even over flowing.
The over flowing is an issue, as sometimes when you think you close the door, it popps back open – even just a little. Keeping a freezer in the garage, while it makes the most sense for me given my small kitchen space (yes, I have a small kitchen, but can put out a ton of food!), it is not ideal if the door pops open after retrieving an item.
I do not visit my garage every day. I do visit my kitchen regularly. So if someone forgot to close the refrigerator door or it popped open, I would notice within a few hours.
In the garage, it could be days. Well – unlucky for me- it was days. My son complained of a bad odor coming from the garage and thought it was from the garbage can. I move the garbage can outside thinking the odor would dissipate. It was really really bad and was wafting though out the house.
I opened windows, doors, etc.. I figured by the time I got home from work, the odor would be much less since I removed the “source”. Well, it wasn’t gone and the garage was almost unbearable to enter. Then I thought, OH GOSH – Please don’t let me find anything dead in here.
Then I thought, even though the freezer door looks closed, let me check. Sure enough it was not. It had been days since I last went into the garage and/or freezer, my son did earlier in the week. Who knows. When I checked, everything in the freezer had defrosted and in the wonderful warm weather we had this year, some items were very warm to the touch. It was then I discovered the source of the smell.
I threw out all of the obvious items – warm and totally defrosted poultry, seafood, brown meat that used to be red, etc…
I deep down knew what I had to do, but tried to think I could still save some of the expensive cuts of beef. Sure, the poultry, seafood had to go. But really – my Wagu and Buffalo steaks? I can save them, I thought. I spent so much on them, surely they will be fine. They were cool to the touch (but completely defrosted), so right, we can still eat them?
I can save all the other pre-made food I froze? Stuffed buns, Cooked food? Sure everything was defrosted. But can’t they be re-frozen and saved?
Then I recall all of the books, TV, classes I have heard/read/seen about food safety. I really tried to convince myself I could save some items. Then I recalled some more, and thought do I even want to try it? Would I serve it to my son or guests knowing safety was even a remote possibility? Or even my dog?
Not to mention the items that leaked onto others, etc…
I came to the very hard and expensive decision that I had to throw out everything. I survived multiple NE Blackouts keeping the freezer closed and everything was still frozen when the lights came back on. This was not the case here. There is no question any food safety inspector could ask me that I could honestly say – YES I am comfortable eating that item and serving to others.
So – the good news is all of my recipes are written down and I can remake anything. The bad news is, it is a waste of money and an expensive lesson for all of the items in the freezer.
BOTTOM LINE – Ask yourself – can you really feel comfortable eating this and serving to a child? If you can not answer the question – THROW IT OUT. The cost of throwing it out is very much cheaper than causing a food bourne illness.
Here is a link to the FDA site on Food SAFETY in emergencies and power outages: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/keeping_food_Safe_during_an_emergency/index.asp
There are also products on the market that monitor Freezer temperatures, how long the door is open, and even have freezer locks, etc.. If this is something that you feel would benefit you, by all means check them out. I am. If it is less than what I lost in food this time, then by all means, it is worth the price. I do not have any specific recommendations, but before I stock my freezer with anything but ICE, I am checking them out.
I am also re-thinking how much and when I purchase in bulk. It is said a freezer operates best at near-full. So from now on, I will use blocks/bags of ice o fill in the gaps when I really do not need a freezer full of food for my families weekly/monthly consumption. If I need to fill the freezer for a party or other event, then I will remove the ice. I am not going to cry over spilled ice… I did cry over spooled Wagu beef and all of the items I made for my upcoming trip to Minnesota with family.
It did cost me plenty. But you know what? I can sleep well at night knowing I made the right decision to throw out that food. Please do not take this advice lightly. When in doubt – Throw it OUT!
You will make flies everywhere very happy! 🙂
Nicole – Hard lesson Learned.