Food Safety in Power Outages
When in doubt, throw it out!
Food safety is extremely important to your family’s health anytime, but especially during a power outage. The following guidelines outline what you can do to keep your refrigerated and frozen foods safe and how to tell when the food is no longer safe to eat.
How long will food remain safe without power?
A full freezer will stay frozen for about two days, and a half-full freezer will stay frozen about one day. Remember to keep the freezer door closed as much as possible to conserve the cold. If your power is expected to remain off longer than one to two days, try to locate dry or block ice to place in your freezer. Place block ice in a container in the freezer’s compartment that will contain any water as it melts. Dry ice can keep food frozen for two to four days depending on conditions.
Refrigerated foods should be safe if power is not out more than four hours.
What if the power is out longer?
In the event that you are unable to take these precautions, here are some guidelines to insure that the food you have is safe for consumption.
- The food in your freezer may be safely refrozen if, when power is restored, the food contains ice crystals or is at 40° Fahrenheit or below.
- As food thaws, separate raw meat products from other items by placing them in a pan or sealed container.
- Perishable refrigerated foods that have been above 40° Fahrenheit for more than two hours should be discarded.
- Selected foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, soft cheeses, low fat cheeses, dairy products, creamy dressings, eggs, egg products, cooked pastas, casseroles, soups, cut fruit and vegetables need to be discarded.
- Foods such as hard cheese, processed cheese, butter, margarine, peanut butter, jelly, whole fruit, vegetables, and vinegar-based dressings should be safe.
Handling dry ice
- To locate a distributor of dry ice, look under “dry ice” in the yellow pages of the telephone book.
- Buy 25 pounds of dry ice to keep a 10 cubic-foot freezer full of food safe for three to four days; half-full, two to three days. A full 18-cubic-foot freezer requires 50 to 100 pounds of dry ice to keep food safe two days; half-full, less than two days.
- Handle dry ice with caution and in a well-ventilated area. Don’t touch it with bare hands; wear gloves or use tongs.
- Wrap dry ice in brown paper for longer storage. One large piece lasts longer than several small ones.
- The temperature of dry ice is –216° Fahrenheit, so it may cause freezer burn on items located near or touching it. Separate dry ice from the food using a piece of cardboard.