Food Safety Guidelines

Food Safety During Power Outages and Emergencies

Heat waves, violent storms and other natural events – as well as some man-made ones – can cause sudden power outages. Outages of any length can be frustrating and troublesome, and prolonged ones can also be dangerous. When your refrigerator goes out, special food safety measures must be taken.

Perishable foods including milk, meat and eggs should not be stored above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours. If a power outage is 2 hours or less, you don’t need to be concerned, but you should know how to save your food when the refrigerator is out for longer periods of time. Being prepared can help. By planning ahead, you can save your perishables and safeguard your family’s health.

Food Storage During an Emergency: What Do I Need?

  • One or more coolers. Inexpensive styrofoam coolers can do an excellent job.
  • Shelf-stable foods, such as canned goods and powdered or boxed milk. These can be eaten cold or heated on the grill.
  • A digital quick-response thermometer. A digital thermometer should be a necessity in your kitchen anyway. With these thermometers you can quickly check the internal temperatures of food for doneness and safety.

Food Safety During an Emergency: What Should I Do?

  • Do not open the refrigerator or freezer. Tell your little ones not to open the door. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold enough for a couple of hours at least. A freezer that is half full will hold for up to 24 hours and a full freezer for 48 hours. Instead, eat shelf-stable foods.
  • If it looks like the power outage will be for more than 2-4 hours, pack the important items in your refrigerator, such as milk, dairy products, meats, fish, poultry, eggs, and left-overs into your cooler surrounded by ice. Keep temperature at or below 40 degrees. Throw away any items that have been exposed to temperatures greater than 40 degrees for more than two hours.
  • If it looks like the power outage will be prolonged beyond a day or so, prepare another cooler with ice for the items in your freezer.