Food Safety and Storage During Power Outage

Posted on August 5, 2020

Power outages can be inconvenient and dangerous for a number of reasons, but one of the most concerning is the safety of your food. Refrigeration is important for the prevention of bacterial growth in food. With a power outage, foods can quickly warm to unsafe temperatures. Knowing how to react to a power outage can keep foods from becoming unsafe and prevent you and your family from getting sick.

If Your Power is Out

Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria. Keeping food at safe temperatures is key to reduce the risk of foodborne poisoning.

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours, and a full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if half full) if the door remains closed.
  • Use ice (dry or block ice, ice cubes, and frozen containers of water/gel packs) to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible.

When Power is Restored

Before eating any food after a power outage, check the temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer.

  • If the power was out for no more than 4 hours, refrigerated food should be safe as long as the doors were kept closed. When the power comes back on, check the temperature in the refrigerator or of the food. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, eggs, or leftovers) that has been at refrigerator temperatures above 41°F for 4 hours or more. Perishable foods with temperatures that are 45°F or below (measured with a food thermometer) should be safe but cooked and consumed as soon as possible.
  • If the freezer thermometer reads 41°F or below, food is safe and may be refrozen. If you did not have a thermometer in the freezer, check each package to determine its safety; you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 41°F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
  • Be aware that perishable foods that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause food poisoning if eaten, even after they are thoroughly cooked.

Learn more and watch a video about food safety during a power outage at:

https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/food-and-water-safety-during-power-outages-and-floods#video