Food Safety and Losing Power — What Do You Keep? What Do You Throw Out?

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If you lose power for more than a few hours, you may be worried about the safety or quality of the food in your refrigerator or freezer. Regardless of the type of loss–snow, hurricane, or happenstance–it is important to protect yourself and your family by knowing what you can keep and what you can’t. There are often items you can save.

  • Foods kept in a closed refrigerator can be safe up to 4 hours. Once you’re able to open your refrigerator or have hit the 4-hour mark, check the temperature of foods with a food thermometer and toss perishable foods that have been over 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours.
  • Food is still safe to eat as long as the temperature remained at or below 41.
  • Never taste a food to determine safety. Taste is not a clear indicator of spoilage.
  • Frozen food that has ice crystals or has maintained a temperature below 41 may be safely refrozen. However, a reduction in quality is possible. A full freezer keeps foods cold longer than a half full freezer.
  • Perishable refrigerated food (meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, cooked leftovers, cut fruits and vegetables) should be discarded after 4 hours without power or a cold source.
  • Any food with an unusual odor, color or texture should be discarded.
  • Remember when in doubt, throw it out.

Sources: N.C. Cooperative Extension Safe Plates, CDC, USDA

Still not sure? Check out this great resource from NC State Extension Food Safety (Safe Plates) experts, Recovering from Storms: Frozen and Refrigerated Food. It shares specific foods and categories to help guide you about what to keep and what to throw out. There are many things you can save and some you should throw out.