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 Type||Held 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, shortening||Safe|
|Hard cheeses and processed cheeses||Safe|
|Soft cheeses (Brie, cottage cheese, ricotta, etc.)||Discard|
|Fruits, jams and jellies||Safe|
|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|
|Cooked meals (casseroles, soups, stews, etc.)||Discard|
|Meat, poultry or fish||Discard|
|Pastries (filled with cream or cheese)||Discard|
|Breads, muffins, biscuits, and cookies||Safe|
|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 sauce||Discard|
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!