Food Safety Before, During, and After a Power Outage

Jan 26, 2015, 17:33 ET from U.S. Food and Drug Administration

SILVER SPRING, Md., Jan. 26, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- January 2015 is winding down … but not without the potential for the first big snowstorm of the year. As Winter Storm Juno bears down on the East Coast, there is a potential for dangerous blizzard conditions and power outages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reminds you that power outages can happen at any time – and can affect the safety of your food.  Ensure that food stays safe by having a plan in place and knowing what food safety precautions to take if a power outage does occur.  

Be Prepared

Plan ahead by stocking up on supplies in advance, or knowing where to obtain them if needed.  

  • Use a refrigerator and freezer thermometer, and check before an outage to ensure that the refrigerator temperature is at or below 40 °F and the freezer is at or below 0 °F.
  • Plan for ice. Know where you can get dry or block ice. Make ice cubes and freeze containers of water or gel packs to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers.
  • Keep coolers on hand to store refrigerated food if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
  • Freeze refrigerated items that you may not need immediately and group food together in the freezer.
  • Stock your pantry with a few days worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration.

If the Power Goes Out  

Cold temperatures slow the growth of harmful bacteria, so keep food at safe temperatures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

  • 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 it is half full) if unopened.
  • Use ice (dry or block, ice cubes, and frozen containers of water or gel packs) to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible.

When Power is Restored

Check the temperatures inside your refrigerator and freezer before consuming any food.

  • If the power was out for no more than 4 hours, refrigerated food should be safe as long as the doors were kept closed. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, eggs, or leftovers) that has been above 40 °F for 2 hours or more.
  • If the freezer thermometer reads 40 °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 40 °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 foodborne illness if consumed, even after they are thoroughly cooked.

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

Contact: Media: 1-301-796-4540  Consumers: 1-888-SAFEFOOD (toll free)

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SOURCE U.S. Food and Drug Administration