Power Outages: How Long Does Food Last in the Fridge and Freezer?
The power’s out and you’ve got a fridge full of food. So you naturally start to worry about what’s still safe to eat. But how can you tell?
Here, the answers to your most pressing questions:
The refrigerator: how long will foods remain safe without power?
· All foods: at least 4 hours, if the fridge is left unopened.
· Discard after 4 hours without power: Meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, cooked leftovers, soft cheeses, deli cold cuts/salads and other perishable foods.
· Still safe after 4 hours: Ketchup, mustard, relishes, jams, jellies, olives, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, bread, rolls, bagels, cakes (without cream or custard), cookies and muffins, certain hard cheeses, whole (not cut) fruits and vegetables.
· The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site has an extensive list of what to keep or discard.
Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
Never taste food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or smell to determine whether food is safe.
The freezer: how long will foods remain safe without power?
· Approximately 48 hours, if the freezer is full.
· Approximately 24 hours, if the freezer is half-full.
Keep the freezer door closed as much as possible to maintain its cold temperature.
How can you tell if food in the freezer is still safe?
If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below, the food is safe. Otherwise, discard it.
Never taste food to determine its safety — foods that look and smell perfectly fine can still be unsafe to eat.
Can you safely refreeze food that has started to thaw?
Yes — but only if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below. If that’s not the case, throw it out.
For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site.
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