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					When the Home Freezer Stops
When the freezer stops running, the      • The freezer itself. (A well-          Dry ice may be available from the
power supply may be off or the           insulated freezer with good gaskets     local dairy or cold storage ware-
freezer itself may be broken. Don’t      will keep food frozen much longer       house; or, check the yellow pages
worry if you know the freezer will       than one with little insulation or      under “Dry Ice” or “Carbonic
be off only a few hours.                 poor gaskets.)                          Gas.” Have the dry ice company
                                         • Size of freezer. (The larger the      cut it into convenient sizes. Never
Steps to follow first                    freezer, the longer the food will       touch dry ice with your hands.
1. If the power is off, try to find      stay frozen.)                           Don’t try to cut or chip the ice
out how long it will be off. Check                                               yourself. To prevent burns, wear
plug and circuit breaker before          Consider moving the food to a           gloves when handling dry ice. Do
proceeding.                              locker plant                            not inhale the vapors.
2. Consult freezer manual to             Call the locker plant to see if it is   The temperature of a half-full,
determine if there is something you      operating and, if so, whether it has    10 cubic-foot cabinet can be kept
can do to put the freezer back into      space. If space is available, wrap      below freezing for two to three
operation.                               the food in plenty of newspapers        days with about 25 pounds of dry
                                         and blankets, or use insulated          ice. Food in a fully loaded cabinet
3. Find out how long it will take        boxes. Rush the food to the locker      will stay frozen three to four days
to get a technician to get the freezer   plant.                                  if the dry ice is added soon after the
running.                                                                         freezer shuts down.
                                         Use dry ice
If the home freezer will be off for      If locker space is not available and    Use 50 pounds of dry ice for a
some time, here are some things          it looks as though the freezer will     20 cubic-foot freezer. Put heavy
you can do to prevent food spoilage.     be out of service for more than a       cardboard directly on the packages
                                         day, use dry ice if available. The      of frozen food, then put dry ice on
Keep the freezer closed                  more dry ice used, the longer the       the cardboard. Don’t open the
A closed freezer acts like an insu-      food will stay frozen.                  freezer again until you need to
lated ice chest. Food usually will
stay frozen in a fully loaded cabinet
for two days if the freezer is kept     Do Not Refreeze                          Safe To Refreeze
closed. A freezer that’s partially full
will not keep more than one day.        • Food that has thawed com-              •   Foods that still contain ice
                                           pletely—especially meat,                  crystals
How long the food in your freezer          poultry and seafood                   •   Thawed fruit if it still tastes and
will stay frozen depends on:            • Prepared, cooked foods such as             smells good
• The amount of food.                      pizza, casseroles and stew            •   Bread, cake, cookies, plain
• The kind of food. (A freezer          • Any food that has poor or                  doughnuts
full of meat or other dense foods          questionable color or odor            •   Nuts, flour, cereal
will not warm up as fast as a           • Thawed vegetables                      •   Raw meat and poultry that has
freezer full of baked food.)            • Creamed foods, puddings or                 thawed but is still cold (40˚F or
• The temperature of the food.             other low-acid foods that have            less can be refrozen raw or
(The colder the food, the longer it        thawed                                    cooked thoroughly and refrozen
will stay frozen.)                      • Melted ice cream                       •   Juice
                                                                                 •   Margarine
                                                                                 •   Cheese

                                                                                                           PM 1367 July 1989
                                                                                                Electronic Version March 2001
replace the dry ice or until the       How to refreeze food
freezer is working again.
Cover the freezer with blankets or     1. Clean freezer thoroughly              the food well with newspapers and
quilts to provide extra insulation.    before refilling.                        blankets before moving it to or
Be sure to pin or fasten the cover-    Wash all removable parts, gasket         from the freezer plant.
ings so air-vent openings are not      and door liner with warm water and
blocked. The power may go on           mild detergent. Rinse well. Disin-       If you must refreeze food at home,
unexpectedly and ventilation will      fect using a solution of 1 table-        set the temperature control of the
be needed.                             spoon chlorine bleach per quart of       freezer to its coldest position.
                                       water. Rinse well.                       When power is restored, the freezer
What to do if food thaws                                                        will run continuously and food will
Generally, perishable foods held       2. Mark foods that are being             freeze quicker. Make sure cold air
above 40 degrees for over 2 hours      refrozen.                                can circulate freely. After the food
should be discarded. Bacteria that                                              is frozen, return the temperature
                                       3. Refreeze thawed food quickly.         control to its usual setting.
cause food poisoning can multiply      The best way is to take the food to
to unsafe levels under these condi-    a commercial locker plant so it can      4. Use refrozen food as soon as
tions. Thawed food can safely be       be chilled to 0˚F or below. Wrap         possible.
refrozen if it still contains ice
crystals or if it has thawed, but is
                                       have seeped into the insulation.         For more information
still cold (about 40˚F) and has been
                                       This problem requires service by a       Additional help is available from
kept at refrigerator temperature not
                                       technician who may have to re-           • Iowa State University Extension
more than one or two days.
                                       move and replace the insulation.         county offices, and
                                                                                • ISU Extension’s Answer Line
Partial thawing and refreezing
                                       Be prepared                              by e-mail at or
reduces the quality of foods,
                                       • Locate the nearest locker plant.       by phone at 1-800-262-3804 (to use
especially fruits and vegetables.
                                       Discuss emergency arrangements           TDD telecommunications devise for
                                       with manager.                            deaf, call 1-800-854-1658).
Handling odor problems
                                       • Identify a source of dry ice in your   Prepared by Patricia Redlinger, former
If food has thawed and spoiled in
                                       community.                               extension food science specialist and
the freezer, a thorough cleaning job                                            Diane Nelson, extension communication
may not remove the lingering odor.     • During the seasons when power          specialist.
Try the following methods:             failure is frequent in your commu-
                                                                                . . . and justice for all
                                       nity, it’s good insurance to run the     The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
• Wash the interior walls with a       freezer between -10˚F and -20˚F.         prohibits discrimination in all its programs and
solution of 2 tablespoons of baking                                             activities on the basis of race, color, national
                                                                                origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political
soda per quart of water.               • When buying a freezer, select one      beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family
                                                                                status. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all
                                       with good insulation. A well-
• Pour activated charcoal or                                                    programs.) Many materials can be made
                                       insulated freezer will keep food         available in alternative formats for ADA clients.
baking soda onto jelly roll pans                                                To file a complaint of discrimination, write
                                       cold longer. Replace worn gaskets        USDA, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W,
and place in freezer in two or more
                                       that might prevent a tight seal.         Whitten Building, 14th and Independence
areas. Run freezer for several days.                                            Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call
Activated charcoal can be purchased    • Use care in preparing, packaging
in quantity from stores that sell      and freezing food. Sanitary prepa-       Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension
                                                                                work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in coopera-
aquarium supplies. Small amounts       ration means fewer bacteria to           tion with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
are available from appliance stores.   cause spoilage. Frozen bacteria are      Stanley R. Johnson, director, Cooperative Extension
                                                                                Service, Iowa State University of Science and
                                       not dead; when the temperature           Technology, Ames, Iowa.
• If these methods do not solve        increases they become active and can
odor problems, wet drippings may       cause spoilage and foodborne illness.

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