Power Outages And Food Safety

When the power goes out, your first thought is to find a flashlight, but soon your mind turns to the lovely steak you purchased for the evening's dinner. How long can it and other foods safely stay in an unpowered refrigerator? The answer depends on several factors.


Your food problems begin once your refrigerator's internal temperature reaches 40 degrees Fahrenheit. At that mark, most foods can only last for two hours before becoming unsafe to eat. You usually have four hours total before spoilage occurs, but that time can be shortened if you do not keep the refrigerator door closed.  

Foods To Keep

Although meat products and anything that comes into contact with raw meat juices must go, a few items can survive an extended power outage. Hard cheeses, such as provolone and cheddar, will be safe to eat, as will processed cheeses, butter, and margarine. Opened fruit juices, fresh uncut fruit, and dried and canned fruits are all okay to consume. Other items such as peanut butter, jellies, ketchup, mustard, and even taco sauces will be fine to use. Also, all bread and raw vegetables are still good to go. 

Unsafe Practices

Never taste an item to determine if it is unspoiled. The item can taste fine and still be loaded with deadly bacteria. Appearance is also misleading. Just because an item looks good does not mean it is safe to eat. Although it may break your heart and pain your stomach, you may have to throw out that expensive steak if the refrigerator is off for too long of a period. 

Backup Storage

For some planned power outages, such as scheduled work by an electrical contractor, you can arrange to keep your perishables at a neighbor's or relative's home. You can also use coolers and ice to store your food, but you will need a digital thermometer to make sure you are maintaining a temperature below 40 degrees. Also, a licensed electrician can give you a reasonable estimate of how long the job will take so that you can plan accordingly. 

Discarding food is a painful exercise that is wasteful and expensive. Having coolers around can save you in case of an emergency or planned outage. However, if you are caught unprepared, you must throw out food that has been over the acceptable temperature for too long. Do not fool yourself into thinking you can save items that look good. Pitch them and keep yourself and your family safe. 

If your home has been having more power issues than usual, contact a company like A-Team Electric to find the source of the problem so you can stop throwing away spoiled food.