How Long Is Food in the Fridge Safe to Eat After a Power Outage?

If you don’t have a generator to keep your fridge or freezer going during a power outage, you can end up with a lot of warm, thawed-out food. Is this food still safe to eat after a power outage?

Before you toss out all that food, here’s what you need to know.

During a Power Outage:

You must keep your fridge and freezer closed during a power outage. Modern refrigerators and freezers have excellent insulation and keep food cold (and thus safe to eat) for a long time, even if turned off or unplugged.

Each time you open the doors, you let some of the cold air out – thus reducing the time the food is still safe to eat.

  • An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for 4 hours
  • An unopened full freezer will keep food cold for 48 hours
  • An unopened half-full freezer will keep the temperature for 24 hours
  • Use Dry Ice: 50lbs of dry ice will keep an 18 cubic foot, full freezer cold for two days

Note: Do not put food outside during a snowstorm to keep it cold. Instead, put containers of water outside to make ice. Put these ice containers in your fridge and freezer.

Also read: Foods which don’t require refrigeration

When the Power Is Restored:

  • Check the freezer temperature. If it is 40F or below, the food inside is safe to eat or refreeze. 
  • If you don’t have a freezer thermometer, check the food for ice crystals. It is safe to eat or refreeze if it still has ice crystals.
  • It should be safe to eat perishable refrigerated foods if the power outage lasts no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator was kept shut.

Use the table below to determine whether you should discard or save food.

Food TypeHeld at 40F for more than 2 hours or 90F for 1 hour or more
Eggs (cooked, fresh, or egg products such as mayonnaise)Discard
Dairy (milk, cream, yogurt, baby formula)Discard
Butter, margarine, shorteningSafe
Hard cheeses and processed cheesesSafe
Soft cheeses (Brie, cottage cheese, ricotta, etc.)Discard
Fruits, jams and jelliesSafe
Vegetables (cooked, raw cut or vegetable juices)Safe, but discard if above 45F for more than 1 day or above 50F for more than 8 hours
Baked potatoesDiscard
Cooked meals (casseroles, soups, stews, etc.)Discard
Meat, poultry or fishDiscard
Pastries (filled with cream or cheese)Discard
Breads, muffins, biscuits, and cookiesSafe
Fruit piesSafe
Condiments (ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, olives, vinegar-based salad dressings, etc.)Safe, but discard if above 45F for more than 1 day or above 50F for more than 8 hours
Creamy condiments, fish sauceDiscard
Peanut butterSafe

Note: These guidelines are based on recommendations by government agencies like the CDC and USDA – which often err on the side of caution. Use your best judgment when determining if you should throw away food after a power outage or not!

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