Power Outages – Maintaining Food Safety

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Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

During extreme weather, power outages often occur resulting in the loss of electricity to households and major appliances like refrigerators and freezers. Power outages can be inconvenient and dangerous for a number of reasons, but one of the most concerning is the safety of your food. Refrigeration is important for the prevention of bacterial growth in food. With a power outage, foods can quickly warm to unsafe temperatures. It’s important to know what you can do to keep foods from becoming unsafe and to prevent you and your family from getting sick.

During a Power Outage
Keep appliance doors CLOSED as much as possible. Opening and closing doors will release cold air and cause the safe storage time of perishable items to reduce.

  • A fully stocked refrigerator will stay cold for about four hours. A freezer will keep its temperature for 24 hours if half-full or 48 hours if full.
  • If the power has been out for four hours, and a cooler and ice are available, transfer perishable foods in the refrigerator to the cooler to maintain a temperature of 40 ºF or below. Be sure to add ice or a cold source.

After a Power Outage

  • Check the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer. If foods in both are still under 40ºF, they are safe to keep and/or refreeze. If the foods are above 40ºF, they should be discarded.
  • Also check foods that were in a cooler before putting them back into the refrigerator. Discard any that are over 40ºF.
  • Unsure if a food is still safe? Follow the rule of thumb, “When in doubt, throw it out!”
  • Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to the touch.
  • Never taste a food to determine its safety.

For more information, visit pwcgov.org/Ready.

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