When the Power Goes Out: How to Keep Your Food Safe
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 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service:
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.
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: Perishable foods, including meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, cooked leftovers, and deli items.
· 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 USDA has an extensive list of what to keep or discard here.
Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
Remember: never taste food to determine its safety. You can’t rely on appearance or smell to determine whether food is safe.
For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service Web site.
<< Back to Shelf Talk main page