Load shedding can be a health risk? Let’s see the light, together.

by Liam

loadshedding blog

All South African’s know the time old cliché:
“What did South Africa have before fire?”

Indeed, load shedding has been responsible for an underlying frustration amongst many South African citizens. It is without saying that the loss of electricity impacts South African daily life from matters ranging from traffic congestion, damage to household appliances (Insert shameless, company-self promotion here), a decrease in business productivity (Particularly to SME’s), and simply to causing general dissatisfaction among the populace.

The cherry atop this dysfunctional milkshake is that load shedding may now pose a health risk. Let me explain: local supermarkets naturally try to keep their perishables products (raw meat, fruit or veggies) fresh underneath the blazing, South African Sun to preserve their best before dates, nutritional value, etc. — Yes, all is well.

Well… Until the power goes off.

(Source: *Top 10 South African Loadshedding Jokes: The ‘Lighter’ Side of Eskom’s Power Cuts *by SAPeople)

What you and I need to understand is that the above situation can result in the beginnings of spoiled food. And spoiled food can have very serious consequences.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources in America, offers useful information on how food generally spoils: Food spoilage is the result of the influence of variables including air, light, physical damage, temperature and time in relation to the microorganisms or enzymes present within perishable goods. The institute explains that microorganisms grow rapidly at room temperature, and in addition to that, oxidation (a chemical process that produces undesirable changes in colour, flavour and nutritional content within food — thanks ShelfLifeAdvice), results when air reacts with your food’s composition. In other words, when fats in foods become rancid, oxidation is primarily responsible. UNL also recommends specific temperatures when storing your food, which is quite helpful when taking into account the above variables:

  • Cupboard: 10 to 21°C
  • Fridges: 1 to 4°C
  • Freezer: -18°C or below

But bringing this all back to Mzansi: perishable food that’s kept above room temperature and exposed to light or oxygen often risks rapid growth of bacteria, resulting in spoiled food. And the scary thing about that is here, load shedding can subject fresh produce to up to five hours of room temperature at a time.

So, we at CAN Infinity have come up with four suggestions to keep in mind to help you out with preventing food spoilage and keeping you or your families safe during these turbulent times:

1. Make sure your fridge is serviced and fully functional
A refrigerator that is in a respectable condition and set correctly, will ensure that stored goods remain considerably cold while power isn’t available. Remember that in a freezer, food should be kept at or below freezing, as this slows down or “freezes” the growth of bacteria. Keep in mind that food held in a fridge or freezer can still spoil, especially in a case of prolonged load shedding when your freezer thaws due to the cut in power.  

2. Plan your shopping
You might arrive at your local Spar or Pick ‘n Pay and find that the retailer is currently in the  middle of load shedding. This may not be a problem for some outlets, as larger supermarkets normally have generators, but smaller shops might not be able to keep up the required temperatures in the frozen sections which could cause produce to go off. The “technically correct” answer is to try again another time and not risk it. But most South Africans live on the edge and simply may not be able to afford such. So, we recommend that during load-shedding you should try to buy smaller quantities of food that require refrigeration or freezing. Instead, you should focus on buying more non-perishable or longer-lasting foods. For example, this might include canned goods such as tuna, oats, rice or bread. You could also meal-prep with the worst-case scenario in mind: Load shedding schedules can be moved to a higher stage with very limited notice. As suggested above, focus on buying meat, poultry or other fresh goods in smaller batches to lessen the risk of a big loss if the items do go off.

3. Practice good hygiene around your home
Without electric fans or — if you’re one of the lucky ones — air conditioners, the average temperatures within houses may rise. It’s advisable to keep your home cooler by leaving a few windows or doors open (within reason, of course). Or alternatively, you could always buy a fan that’s battery operated. Secondly, the first rule of good hygiene is to always wash your hands in order to lessen the spread of bacteria. It goes without saying that you should not consume any food product that you suspect has been out of your fridge in the heat and has any chance of being spoiled.

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