Food Safety in a Power Outage
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides the following information:
Follow the Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes for USDA recommendations during and after a severe storm.
Steps to Follow to Prepare for a Weather Emergency
- Use appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer to help determine if food is safe during power outages. The refrigerator temperature should be 40° F or lower and the freezer should be 0° F or lower.
- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, fresh meat, and poultry that you may not need immediately-this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers in case of a power outage. You can also use the melted ice for drinking water.
- Purchase or make ice cubes and freeze gel packs in advance.
- Plan ahead and know where to purchase block ice and dry ice, just in case.
- Have coolers on hand to keep the refrigerator food cold in case the power is out for more than 4 hours
If the Power Goes out
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
- A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if you keep the door closed.
- A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full)
- If the power is out for an extended period of time, buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
When the Power Is Restored
- Check the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer. If the thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe.
- If no thermometer was used in the freezer, check each package. If the food still contains ice crystals, it's safe.
- Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items) that have been kept in a refrigerator or freezer above 40° F for two hours or more.
- Never taste food to determine its safety!
- When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
Food Safety Questions
Consumers with food safety questions can phone the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); TTY, 1-800-256-7072.
The Hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
Consumers can also ask safe food handling questions by logging on to FSIS' online automated response system called "Ask Karen" on the Food Safety and Inspection Service's Web site: www.fsis.usda.gov
E-mail inquiries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional information about USDA's food safety efforts can be accessed on the FSIS Web site at www.fsis.usda.gov