During an extended power outage, temperatures in your fridge and freezer will begin to rise, even if the doors stay closed. As the temperature rises, harmful bacteria may begin to grow on your food.
If the temperature in your fridge stays above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours, perishable food items (milk, lunchmeat, mayonnaise based salads, poultry items, leftovers, etc.) may be unsafe to eat.
If the temperature in your freezer stays above 41 degrees Fahrenheit for more than one to two days, food may be unsafe to eat. Food that still contains ice crystals should be safe. Always check the color and odor of food, particularly meat when it is thawed. If it is questionable throw it out (make sure it is discarded where animals can’t get to it).
Take steps now to make sure your perishable food remains as safe as possible:
- Install a thermometer in your fridge and freezer.
- If you anticipate a power outage, such as a winter storm, reduce the temperature of your fridge and freezer. The colder your food is the more time it takes to thaw.
- Keep containers of ice in your freezer to keep the temperature down.
When the power goes out:
- Cover the fridge or freezer in newspapers and blankets. Keep vents clear in case the freezer starts operating again.
- Avoid opening the door to the fridge or freezer.
- Use dry ice, if available. Identify a source for dry ice in advance and remember that if the power outage is widespread, there may be a lot of competition for this resource.
If you don’t know the temperature of your fridge or if the fridge was off for more than four hours, the food should be discarded. Eating perishable food that has not been kept cold can cause food poisoning, even if it is refrozen or cooked. When in doubt, throw it out!