Food Safety In a Power Outage

Determining Safety

The loss of power could jeopardize the safety of your food. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Keep the Freezer Door Closed

Keep what cold air you have inside. Don’t open the door any more than necessary. A full freezer will stay at freezing temperatures about two days; a half-full freezer about one day. If the freezer is not full, group packages so they form an “igloo” to protect each other.

If you think power will be out for several days, try to find dry ice. Look under “ice” or “carbon dioxide” in the phone book. It takes 25 pounds of dry ice to keep a 10 cubic-foot freezer full of food safe three to four days. Dry ice can be used in the refrigerator, but block ice is better. Dry ice must be handled with caution and in a well-ventilated area. Don’t touch it with bare hands; wear gloves or use tongs.

Even if food has started to thaw, some foods can be safely kept. The foods in the freezer that partially or completely thaw before power is restored may be safely refrozen if they still contain ice crystals or are 40 degrees F. or below. Evaluate each item separately. Be very careful with meat and poultry products or any food containing milk, cream, sour cream, or soft cheese. Never taste the food to determine its safety. When in doubt, throw it out.

Discarding Items

In general, refrigerated items should be safe as long as power is out no more than four hours. Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees F. for 2 hours or more, and any item that has an unusual odor, color or texture, or feels warm to the touch.

The key to determining the safety of foods in the refrigerator and freezer is knowing how cold they are. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees F. or below; the freezer, 0 degrees F. or lower.

Additional Sources of Information