October 19, 2019

What to Do When the Power Goes Out

Power outages can be scary and frustrating. When your home loses power because of a storm (or for no particular reason), there are certain food safety rules you need to follow. FoodSafety.gov has created fact sheets and charts to help you know when perishables are safe to keep after a power outage and when they should be discarded.

StormsHere’s the first rule of thumb: If the power is out for no more than four hours, and you keep the refrigerator door shut, everything should be fine in that appliance. A full freezer will hold its temperature (which should be below 0 degrees Fahrenheit) for 48 hours if it’s full, or 24 hours if half full. Again, keep the door shut.

You can use block ice to keep the refrigerator cold if the power will be out longer than four hours. Place a 10 pound block of ice in the refrigerator; that should help keep the temperature below 40 degrees F for a few more hours. A block of dry ice (never touch it with bare skin and don’t inhale the fumes) can keep a freezer cold for a few days.

If frozen foods still have ice crystals in the package, they will be safe to eat if thoroughly cooked. Those foods can be refrozen safely. But if any perishable food (meat, poultry, eggs, fish, leftovers) has been above 40 degrees F for more than two hours, it must be discarded.

Never taste food to see if it’s still okay. Bacteria, and the toxins they produce, are odorless and tasteless and don’t change the appearance of food. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of the food and ┬árefrigerator and freezer thermometers to check the temperature of those appliances.

Print out the chart at the government’s web site and keep it on the inside of your pantry or cupboard door. You can refer to it the next time the power goes out.

As severe weather season is here and hurricane season is rapidly approaching, stay tuned. We’ll bring you more information about keeping food and your family safe during severe weather, flooding, fires, and other natural disasters.

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