Freezers

Freezing is a great way to store food. If food is properly frozen there are no food safety concerns and the maximum length of time for storage of food in the freezer is a quality and not a food safety issue. There are however a number of steps that you can take to make sure that frozen food is stored safely:

  • Don’t put food in the freezer when it’s still hot. Cool it as quickly as possible (within two hours), cover and put in the freezer. It makes good sense to divide foods to be frozen into usable amounts and this speeds up the cooling process.
  • Remember to keep the freezer door properly closed and only open when necessary.
  • Do not freeze any foods after their "use-by-date", because they might not be safe to eat.

Temperature

Your freezer should be at –18° Celsius.

Defrosting

Most foods need to be defrosted before they can be eaten or cooked and there are a number of golden rules to make sure that the food is thawed safely:

  • The safest way to defrost food is in the fridge. Allow at least 24 hours for every 2-2.5 kg (4-5 lbs).
  • Make sure that poultry has thawed completely before cooking. You can check whether the meat feels frozen by using a fork or skewer. When defrosting a whole bird, make sure there are no ice crystals in the cavity. If poultry is still partially frozen when you start to cook, it will cook more slowly and might not reach a high enough temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
  • When you have defrosted food, cook or eat it within 24 hours. Don’t refreeze.
  • Don’t defrost food in the microwave unless you are going to cook and eat it straight away. This is because when food is defrosted in the microwave it can get warm enough to allow harmful bacteria to grow.
  • With pre-packed foods, always follow the manufacturer's instructions. If a food label tells you to cook the food from frozen, you should do this – don’t defrost it.

Power cuts

If the power is out for less than 24 hours, then the food in your freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

If your freezer starts again within 24 hours it’s best to leave the food there. Don’t open the door to check the food as this will raise the temperature. If it takes longer than 24 hours to restart, then other safety precautions come into play. Some foods resist thawing better than others, so check them all individually.

ice graphicRemember the golden rule: When in doubt, throw it out.

If you are still not sure what to do in this situation, contact your local Environmental Health Officer. Or you can call the safefood Helpline on 0800 085 1683 (NI) or 1850 40 4567 (ROI).