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Keeping Food Safe During a Power Outage

by Lindsey Sexton - June 8, 2020

No matter the cause, a power outage is never convenient. When refrigerators and freezers lose power, we worry about whether the food will be safe for our families. Knowing how to handle food while the power is off and when it has been restored will help ensure that you and your family do not end up with a foodborne illness.

Should I open the refrigerator or freezer when the power goes out?

Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to maintain their cold temperatures. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened.

If the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time, buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. You may also consider using insulated containers to transport food to a working cooler or refrigerator, if available elsewhere.

How long will food stay frozen during a power outage?

A full freezer will keep its temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. For longer outages, fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic foot fully stocked freezer cold for two days.

Is it safe to eat food from a refrigerator or freezer after the power comes back on?

If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs after it has been held at safe temperatures during a power outage, it's important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more, discard it. Especially, if the food smells odd once it is opened or thawed - When in Doubt, Throw It Out!

For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no refrigeration or added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.

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