Keep Food Safe When the Power Goes Out

November 10, 2023

Severe winds, lightning, and even animals can temporarily cause the power to go out. Extended power outages are rare, but when they occur, it’s important to understand food safety measures to avoid illness.

Before an outage
Keep an emergency supply kit on hand. Be sure to include nonperishable food items like bottled water, powdered milk, canned goods, cereal, and protein bars in your emergency kit.
If you have a warning that an outage is possible, fill a cooler with ice in case the outage spans several hours. Having a cooler ready to go can buy extra time for your refrigerated and perishable items.

During an outage
Call or Text 1-800-794-4423.
If an outage occurs, do not open the refrigerator or freezer unless absolutely necessary. An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for about 24 hours, and a full freezer for about 48 hours.
If it looks like the power outage will last longer than four hours, move your important perishable items to an ice-filled cooler.

After an outage
If refrigerated foods have been exposed to temperatures higher than 40 degrees for more than two hours, the American Red Cross recommends discarding the items. In addition, food with an unusual color, odor, or texture should be thrown away.
When there is an extended outage, throw out any perishable food.
Items safe to consume after a two-hour exposure to 40+ degrees:
Hard cheeses that are adequately wrapped
Butter or margarine that is adequately wrapped
Taco, barbecue, and soy sauces
Peanut butter, jelly, mustard, ketchup, and relish

The best way to avoid illness from spoiled food during or after an outage is to follow the four-hour rule. After an outage, always smell and inspect foods before consuming, and remember: when in doubt, throw it out.