o If ice crystals are still visible and/or the food feels as cold as if refrigerated, it is safe to refreeze. Raw meats and poultry, cheese, juices, breads and pastries can be refrozen without losing a lot of quality. Prepared foods, fish, vegetables and fruits can be refrozen safely, but quality may suffer. Mark these to be used as soon as possible.
o Remember that seafood will be among the first to thaw and will need attention first. Also, ground meat is likely to spoil before other meats.
o If the food thawed and is still cool or has not been at room temperature for more than several hours, cook as soon as possible. Serve or refreeze.
o If the food thawed or was held above 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours, generally it should be discarded because bacteria may multiply to unsafe levels under these conditions. The only foods that can be refrozen under these conditions are well-wrapped hard cheeses, butter and margarine, breads and pastries without custard fillings, fruits and fruit juices that look and smell acceptable. Vegetables held above 40 degrees F for less than 6 hours may be refrozen with quality loss.
o Pecans and other nuts may be refrozen safely but may suffer quality loss.
o Condiments such as ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, relishes, piquante sauce, oil and vinegar salad dressings, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauces should be fine. The acid in them is a natural preservative. Jams, jellies, preserves and syrups are all right, too, because sugar is a preservative. Check for mold growth.
o Hard cheese will be O.K., and if the temperature hasn't gotten too warm inside the refrigerator, blocks or slices of processed cheese can be used. Well-wrapped butter and margarine can usually be kept as long as they do not melt; discard if rancid odors develop. Keep unopened packages of cream cheese, but discard if they are moldy when opened. Sour cream, yogurt and milk should be O.K. if cool, although quality may be poor and shelf life shortened.
o Fresh fruits and vegetables are safe as long as they're still firm and there's no evidence of mold, a yeasty smell or sliminess. Juices are safe as long as there's no evidence of mold growth and they look and smell acceptable.
o Pecans, peanuts and peanut butter also are safe.
o Cured meats and lunch meats, if still cold and not slimy, are O.K.
o Eggs are O.K. if still cool. Eggs should never be eaten raw.
o Throw away leftovers and other highly perishable foods that have been held at temperatures around room temperature for more than several hours.