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Protecting foods from power failures

Protect foods when the power goes out

  • Try to keep the doors closed on your refrigerators and freezers as much as possible. This keeps the cold air inside. A full freezer can stay at freezing temperatures about 2 days; a half-full freezer about 1 day.
  • If you think the power will be out for several days, try to find some ice to pack inside your refrigerator. Remember to keep your raw foods separate from your ready-to-eat foods.

Foods to be concerned about

  • Foods are categorized into groups. They may be: 1) potentially hazardous, 2) non-hazardous, but quality (not safety) could be affected from changes in temperature, or 3) safe.
  • Potentially hazardous foods are the most important. These include meats, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs and egg products, soft cheeses, cooked beans, cooked rice, cooked potatoes, cooked pasta, potato/pasta/macaroni salads, custards, puddings, and so on.
  • Some foods may not be hazardous but the quality may be affected by increases in temperature. These foods include salad dressings, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, produce, hard cheeses, and so on.
  • Some foods are safe. These are carbonated beverages, unopened bottled juices, ketchup, mustard, relishes, jams, peanut butter, barbecue sauce, and so on.

When to save and throw out food

  • Refrigerated foods should be safe as long as the power is out no more than a few hours and the refrigerator/freezer doors have been kept closed. Potentially hazardous foods should be discarded if they warm up above 41º F.
  • Frozen foods that remain frozen are not a risk. If potentially hazardous foods are thawed, but are still cold or have ice crystals on them, you should use them as soon as possible. If potentially hazardous foods are thawed and are warmer than 41o F, you should discard them.

What to do when the power goes back on

Allow time for refrigerators to reach the proper temperature of less than 41º F before restocking. Restock with fresh foods, as necessary.

How to know when food is unsafe to eat

  • You cannot rely on appearance or odor. Never taste food to determine its safety.
  • Some foods may look and smell fine; however, if they have been warm too long, they may contain food poisoning bacteria in quantities that could make you sick.
  • If possible, use a thermometer to check the temperature of the foods. If potentially hazardous foods are found to be less than 41º F, then they should be considered safe.