Food Safety After a Power Outage
The Ventura County Environmental Health Division (EHD) has the following advice for keeping foods safe when the power is out:
- Your freezer
Without power, a full upright or chest freezer will keep everything frozen for about 2 days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen 1 day. If the freezer is not full, quickly group packages together so they will retain the cold more effectively. Separate meat and poultry items from other foods so if they begin to thaw, their juices will not drip on to other foods.
If power will be coming back on fairly soon, you can make the food last longer by keeping the door shut as much as possible. If power is off for more than 6 hours, you may want to put dry ice, block ice, or bags of ice in the freezer, take food to friends' freezers, or locate a commercial freezer.
- Your refrigerator-freezer combination
Without power, the refrigerator section will keep food cool 4-6 hours depending on the kitchen temperature. A full, well-functioning freezer unit should keep food frozen for 2 days.
A half-full freezer unit should keep things frozen about 1 day. Block ice can keep food on the refrigerator shelves cooler. Dry ice can be added to the freezer unit. You cannot touch dry ice and you should not breathe the vapor, so follow handling directions carefully.
- Thawed food?
Food still containing ice crystals or that "feels refrigerator-cold" can be refrozen. It is not necessary to cook raw foods before refreezing. Discard any thawed food that has risen to room temperature and remained there 2 hours or more.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Bacteria can multiply rapidly on perishable foods that have been at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices and immediately discard anything with a strange color or odor.
Discard the following perishable foods if kept above refrigerator temperature (40 degrees F) for more than 2 hours:
- raw or cooked meat, poultry, or seafood
- milk/cream, yogurt, soft cheese
- cooked pasta, pasta salads
- custard, chiffon, or cheese pies
- fresh eggs, egg substitutes
- meat or cheese-topped pizza, luncheon meats
- casseroles, stew, or soups
- mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and creamy dressings
- refrigerated cookie doughs
- cream-filled pastries
Click here for more information on food handling or call the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800/535-4555 weekdays, 10 AM to 4 PM, ET.