Food Safety During a Power Outage

Sooner or later, residents will experience a power outage. For some, it could come after a winter blizzard or a summer storm. Whatever the cause, dealing with the food involved can be a challenge.

Of primary concern are the food items that are potentially hazardous (PHF). Generally, PHFs are moist, perishable foods in and on which bacteria can grow most easily during the time when the food is held in the temperature danger zone (41ºF to 135ºF). 

Please note: A power outage of fewer than 2 hours is not considered hazardous to food that is held under safe conditions when the outage begins.

To help you preserve as much food as possible, here are some guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):

  • For Your Freezer:
    • If your freezer is not full, now is the time to fill it! Use freezer-safe containers, and/or freezer gels or packs and freeze water to take up the empty space. This will help your freezer run more efficiently. If you have an upright freezer, store your more expensive items - meats, frozen entrees, etc. - on the bottom shelves. Since cold air is heavier than warm air, it will sink to the bottom and keep food that is stored there colder.
  • For Your Refrigerator:
    • In general, refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is not out for more than four hours. Discard any perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk/cheeses, soups/stews, and cream-filled pastries that have been at about 40ºF for more than 2 hours, and any food that has an unusual odor, color, texture, or feels warm to the touch.

Remember, if you are in doubt about a food's safety, throw it out! It's not worth the risk.

Food Safety Flyer