Food Safety During Outages

June 28, 2020

Summertime is the perfect time for cookouts, picnics and family meals. But it’s also in the thick of storm season – which means potential for severe weather and power outages that can affect the preservation and quality of your food.

Staying home in response to COVID-19 also means you may have built up larger than usual stockpiles of refrigerated and frozen food items to have at your disposal.

To keep your food as safe as possible in preparation of an outage – and to save energy in the process – follow these tips recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • Keep an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer. The thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer even during power outages and help determine food safety.
  • Make sure the freezer is set at 0° Fahrenheit (F) or below and the refrigerator is at 40°F or below.
  • Keep your freezer stocked full of food items. In an outage, a full freezer will hold consistent temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat that you may not need immediately – this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased in your area.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerated food cold if the power goes out for more than four hours.
  • Freeze containers of water for extra ice to help keep food cold in your freezer, refrigerator or coolers in the event of a power outage. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
  • Store food on shelves where it will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in the case of flooding.

If an outage does occur, refer to these tips to help salvage food supplies as much as possible:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened.
  • Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is out for a prolonged period. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic-foot full freezer cold for two days.
  • If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or the temperature registers at 40°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
  • Discard perishable food, such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items, if they’ve been in a refrigerator without power for longer than four hours.
  • Never taste a food to determine its safety. When in doubt, throw it out!

For more tips on food safety procedures during storm season, view this comprehensive guide* from the USDA.​

*By clicking the link in this article, you are entering a website maintained by an outside party, which is entirely responsible for the site’s content.