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Refrigerated foods exposed to power outage beyond 4 hours unsafe for consumption – WHO

THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has advised that households discard any refrigerated foods that have been exposed to power outages for more than four hours. 

The health agency noted that food products could become unsafe if they have been exposed to temperatures above 5 °C for more than two hours.

It said these in a series of posts on X on Friday, June 7, to mark the World Food Safety Day.

World Food Safety Day, marked every June 7, aims to draw attention to food safety, with this year’s theme focusing on the importance of being prepared for food safety incidents, no matter how mild or severe they could be.

According to the organisation, if a power outage exceeds four hours, all perishable foods in the fridge, including meat, poultry, fish, and leftovers should be discarded.

“If there has been a power outage in your area, refrigerated or frozen food may not be safe to eat. Products can become unsafe if they have been exposed to temperatures above 5 °C for more than two hours.

“After four hours of a power cut, the following apply: throw out all perishable foods in your fridge, such as meat, poultry, fish and leftovers

“Throw out all items in your freezer once they have thawed or cook them immediately, if they have been exposed to ambient temperature for more than two hours,” it wrote.

However, it remains uncertain the extent to which people in developing countries like Nigeria where poverty is rife and power supply is among the world’s poorest will heed this warning.

The WHO also advised that people should never taste foods to determine their safety, adding that if in doubt, the foods should be thrown away.

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“Food safety incidents are situations where there is a potential or confirmed health risk associated with food consumption. 

“A food incident can happen, for example, due to accidents, inadequate controls, food fraud or natural events. While being ready to manage food safety incidents requires dedicated efforts from policymakers, food safety authorities, farmers and food business operators, consumers also can play an active role,” WHO added on its website. 

One in 10 people worldwide fall ill from contaminated food yearly

Highlighting the key issues of food safety, WHO said that one in ten people worldwide falls ill from consuming contaminated food each year.

According to the WHO, more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die yearly after eating contaminated food. 



    It noted that illnesses and deaths are largely preventable if food safety is prioritised along the food chain, from the producer to the consumer.

    This was as the organisation disclosed that over 200 diseases are caused by eating contaminated foods, with about 40 per cent of the foodborne disease burden carried by children under five.

    “Children under five make up nine per cent of the population, but carry 40 per cent of the foodborne disease burden, being at a higher risk of malnutrition and mortality due to unsafe food,” the WHO said.

    The agency highlighted several key areas for improvement, including better hygiene practices in food production and handling, stronger regulatory frameworks by the government at all levels, and enhanced public awareness about food safety


    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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