Food Safety Tips: Keeping Perishable Food Safe Is Critical Whenever Your Power Goes Out

Being prepared when the power goes out is key to keeping your food and your family safe

Food Safety Tips: Keeping Perishable Food Safe When the Power Goes Out
Image: Pixabay
May 11, 2019

Anytime your power goes out due to high winds, snow, ice, thunderstorms, hurricanes, floods, fire, or anything that causes electrical failure, the safety of the food inside your refrigerator and freezer is immediately jeopardized. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep it safe will help you minimize the potential loss of food spoilage and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

Keeping Your Food Safe

  1. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  2. A refrigerator that has not been opened will typically keep food at a safe temperature for about 4 hours. But each time you open the door, you're drastically reducing the amount of time you have left. A full freezer will keep food safe for about about 48 hours, or 24 hours if it is half full. But that's only if it remains unopened.

  3. If you can, get block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible.
  4. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold the temperature in an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days. Whenever you are looking at an extended power outage, getting ice can really help to keep food safe.

  5. If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer.
  6. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, the food is safe. Whenever the food has rising past this temperature, bacteria start growing and multiplying at an astounding rate. That's when the food should be tossed.

  7. Throw away refrigerated perishable food after 4 hours without power.
  8. Unless you have other means of keeping the refrigerator cool, you should not keep any perishable food from the refrigerator after four hours, even if the door has remained closed. Examples of these foods include meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items.

  9. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!
  10. Consuming potentially dangerous food is never worth the risk. Unless you know the food has been kept at a certain temperature or that the power was off for an acceptable amount of time, toss the food. It's never worth the risk to eat potentially unsafe food.

  11. Get more information.
  12. Get more information on food safety after a power outage or natural disaster and find other food safety tips and alerts at FoodSafety.gov.