Food Safety for Power Outages

Refrigerated or frozen foods may not be safe to eat after the loss of power. Find out what you can do to keep food safe during a power outage, and when you need to throw away food that could make you sick.

BEFORE:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator should be at 40°F or below. The freezer should be at 0°F or below.

Prepare for emergencies or natural disasters:

  • Freeze containers of water and gel packs to help keep your food at 40°F or below.
  • Have a cooler and frozen gel packs handy in case you have to remove your food from the refrigerator to keep it cold.
  • Buy dry ice or block ice to keep your food cold in the refrigerator, if you think the power will be out for a long time.
Graphic of refrigerator and freezer thermometers

DURING:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed.
  • If the doors stay closed, food will stay safe for up to:
    • 4 hours in a refrigerator.
    • 48 hours in a full freezer; 24 hours in a half-full freezer.
  • If the power has been out for 4 hours, and a cooler and ice are available, put refrigerated perishable foods in the cooler. To keep them at 40°F or below, add ice or a cold source like frozen gel packs.
Graphic with steps that say 4 hours in a refrigerator, 48 hours in a full freezer and 24 hours in a half-full freezer

AFTER:

  • Never taste food to determine if it is safe to eat. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Throw out perishable food in your refrigerator (meat, fish, cut fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, and leftovers) after 4 hours without power or a cold source like dry ice. Throw out any food with an unusual odor, color, or texture.
  • Check temperatures of food kept in coolers or your refrigerator with an added cold source. Throw out food above 40°
  • If you have an appliance thermometer in your freezer, check to see if it is still at 40 °F or below.
    • You can safely refreeze or cook thawed frozen food that still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below.
Graphic of food being thrown out into trash can

Page last reviewed: September 8, 2020