Power Outages and Food Safety: Toss it or Keep it?

Power Outages and Food Safety: Toss it or Keep it?

May 02, 2022

After the extended power outages some of us faced due to the recent spring snowstorm, we wanted to share this information regarding food safety.  It can be tough to know what to keep and what to toss, and the inconvenience and financial cost of losing the contents of your refrigerator can be frustrating.

Obviously you want to play it safe when determining what foods can be salvaged.  You shouldn’t taste food to help determine whether it’s safe (harmful bacteria doesn’t always have a rancid smell or taste), so here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help you decide what to keep and what to toss once the power’s back on:

  • Throw away meat, poultry, and seafood once it’s been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours.

  • Discard milk, sour cream, yogurt, eggs, and soft cheeses after four hours at 40 degrees or higher. Butter and margarine, as well as hard and processed cheeses, should be okay.

  • Toss mayo, tartar sauce, horseradish and creamy dressings after eight hours at 50-plus degrees. Vinegar-based dressings, along with ketchup, barbecue sauce, peanut butter, etc., are likely fine.

  • Throw out any fruits or veggies that have already been sliced or cooked after four hours above 40 degrees. Whole raw fruits and vegetables should be okay.

  • Refreeze food that still contains ice crystals or is still below 40 degrees.

  • Dispose of all food that has come in contact with flood waters or firefighting chemicals. Even if it looks unharmed, it could still be unsafe.

When the power goes out, keep the fridge and freezer doors tightly shut.The longer you keep them closed, the cooler they stay.

Preparing for a future power outage can help. Placing appliance thermometers in your fridge and freezer, as well as picking up a food thermometer, will help eliminate some guesswork. And, maintaining a nonperishable food supply (you’ll need a can opener too) in a safe place – somewhere cool that’s not susceptible to flooding – means you’ll have something to eat no matter what. Be sure to replace items as they expire or get used.

As for the cost of all that spoiled food?  Some homeowners policies do offer coverage for food that is lost due to power outages.  Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions regarding this coverage.