Is it Safe to Store Perishables Outdoors in the Winter?
Why you should think twice when it comes to using the outdoors as a refrigerator or freezer.
What happens when you run out of room in your freezer, but still have the 20 lb. turkey that you don’t need to thaw for another week? The trusted meteorologist said the temperature should stay just below freezing for most of the week, so why not just throw it out on the deck? Nature’s freezer, right? Not necessarily. Even though it may seem like a logical idea, fluctuating temperatures can have a bigger impact on your perishables than you may think.
The number one risk in storing food outdoors is the uncontrolled temperatures. Harmful bacteria begin to grow when temperatures rise above 40°F for more than 2 hours. At that point, your food will have entered the “Danger Zone” in which bacteria begin to grow at an exponential rate, doubling every 20 minutes. What does this mean? Let’s say you begin with 100 bacteria - in just 3 hours, those 100 bacteria cells can turn into over 50,000. Add just 20 more minutes, and there will be enough bacteria to cause serious foodborne illness.
But what if the outside temperature stays below 40°F? The “Danger Zone” could still be a risk. Not only do you have to worry about the actual air temperature, but also the impact our sun will have on your food. The air temperature may be 40°F, but the powerful rays of the sun will be absorbed by your food and become warmer than its surrounding air. The sun heats the planet, and the planet heats the air.
So, while it may feel like your food will be kept safe in the cold, it is quite unreliable. Fluctuating temperatures along with the rays of our sun can have damaging effects.
Just remember that your refrigerator provides a controlled, protected environment for your frozen or chilled food cargo while mother nature can be a roller coaster of fluctuating temperatures which would compromise the safety of your food.
Uncontrolled fluctuating temperatures. Harmful bacteria begin to grow when temperatures rise above 40°F for more than 2 hours putting your food into the "Danger Zone".
Between 40°F and 140°F when bacteria begin to grow at an exponential rate, doubling every 20 minutes increasing the dangers of consumption.
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