Food Safety

Ways to keep your food safe during a power outage or weather emergency.

Steps to Follow to Prepare for a Possible Weather Emergency:

  • Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. The freezer should be at 0°F (Fahrenheit) or below and the refrigerator should be at 40°F or below.
  • Freeze containers of water for ice, purchase or make ice cubes and freeze gel packs ahead of time to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator, or coolers after the power is out.
  • Know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
  • Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately and group food together in the freezer – this helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. 
  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.

Steps to Follow During and After the Weather Emergency:

Keep Food Cold

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
  • The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed).
  • Obtain block ice or dry ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.

Check If It's Safe to Eat or Drink

  • Never taste food to determine its safety. When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
  • If the power has been out for several days, then check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below, it should be safe to refreeze and/or consume.
  • Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power.
  • Drink only bottled water if flooding has occurred.

Source: Food Safety and Inspection Service United States Department of Agriculture