USDA’s Recommendations for Maintaining Food Safety During a power outage, your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to four hours in the event of an emergency. It’s best if you could keep the door shut. After 4 hours without electricity, throw out all perishables stored in the refrigerator, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers. With a full load, a freezer can maintain a safe temperature for around 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). If food is still frozen solid or has a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, it can be safely refrozen; however, the quality may degrade. To test the safety of food, never eat it. Power outages can occur during times of extreme weather such as monsoons, floods, and heat waves. And that poses a direct threat to the energy that runs your fridge and keeps your food cold.
The food in your fridge or freezer may survive a power outage as short as a few minutes. But what happens if there is a power failure that lasts many days? In the event of a power outage, most perishable items stored in a refrigerator can be safely eaten after four hours if the doors are kept closed. If your freezer is half full, your food will keep for 24 hours; if it’s full, it will keep for 48 hours.
For how long will my refrigerator retain its cool temperature?
According to Health, Tamika Sims, PhD, senior director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council, said that if a refrigerator’s door is kept closed, it can maintain a safe temperature for up to four hours even without electricity.
If your freezer is just halfway full, your food will keep cold for roughly a day; if it’s full, it will stay frozen for over 48 hours. To a greater extent than with less food within, the freezer’s frigid temperature is maintained for a longer period of time. Avoid the temptation to keep checking on your meal. When the doors of the fridge or freezer are left open, the temperature inside quickly rises, hastening the spoilage of any perishable items stored within. Dr Sims recommended keeping the doors to your refrigerator and freezer closed during a blackout so the chilly temperature inside may be maintained.
What signs should I look for if I want to know when the food in my refrigerator has gone bad?
In the event of a blackout, the appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer can be used to ascertain whether or not the food within is still edible. Dr Sims recommends keeping your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less, and your freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or less. If the appliance doesn’t have a temperature indicator, you can use a food thermometer on the meal itself to tell if it’s safe to consume. It is not always possible to tell if food is safe by its appearance or smell, especially when it comes to perishables like dairy goods and meats. Dr Sims emphasised that “the interior temperature of products in the freezer should be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit” before they may be safely re-frozen or prepared for eating. “Throw out any meats, eggs, or leftovers that have been at room temperature for longer than two hours”
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers a handy guide explaining when to dispose of major food categories if you’re ever in doubt about whether to keep or throw away your food. So, lunch meat, soft cheese, milk, and yoghurt should be thrown out if the temperature has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours. However, in such a case, you may preserve such perishables as uncut fresh fruit, waffle mix, pancake mix, and hard cheese.
In all situations, Dr Sims urged care. It’s best to err on the side of caution and not risk eating perishables that were stored in your fridge or freezer during a power outage (or any other time), and instead stock up on dry goods and canned goods that can be kept at room temperature. However, to cut down on waste, you should consume the perishable things (including leftovers, meat, poultry, and dairy products like soft cheese, cream, and sour cream) in your fridge first, provided that the temperatures inside are enough to ensure their safety.