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Can you safely refreeze foods that have thawed?

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You may safety refreeze foods that have thawed if they still contain ice crystals or if they are still cold (refrigerator cold, 40 degrees F. or less) and have been at this temperature no more than 2 days. Partial thawing and refreezing does reduce the quality of foods, particularly fruits, vegetables and prepared foods, so mark them and use them as soon as possible. Red meats, except ground ones, are affected less than many other foods. Fruits and Fruit Juices. Fruits usually ferment when they start to spoil which won't make them unsafe but will make the flavor objectionable. Refreeze if they smell and taste good. Or you can use them in cooking and baking or making jams and jellies. Meats. Fresh meats can become unsafe to eat when they start to spoil. Examine each package of food before you decide what to do with it. If the color or odor is poor or questionable, discard it. Be especially careful with ground meats because their contamination level is high. If it completely thawed, it is best to discard ground meats. Beef, pork, veal and lamb that show no signs of spoilage may be refrozen. Quality will be lost with refreezing. Meats may be cooked and frozen as a finished dish, also. Poultry, Fish, Shellfish. These foods may be refrozen if not completely thawed or above refrigerator temperature. Cooked foods: same as for poultry, fish, and shellfish. Breads, Cakes and Pies. Freshness will be affected but they can be refrozen unless they have become contaminated with liquids dripping from other foods as they thawed. Cream pies should be discarded. Vegetables. Frozen vegetables that are frozen plain (not with a sauce) may be cooked and refrozen if they show no signs of spoilage. Ice Cream and Other Frozen Desserts. Discard if melted. NOTE: Discarding Spoiled Food: If it is not safe for human consumption, do not feed to FIDO and FLUFFY. Either secure it well in a plastic garbage bag for garbage pickup or bury it in the garden.

PREPARED BY: Angela M. Fraser, Ph.D., Associate Professor/Food Safety Specialist, and Carolyn J. Lackey, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N., Professor/Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Carolina State University (August 2004)

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