Food Safety & Power Outages
Preparing your fridge or freezer for a possible power outage
At the first news of inclement weather, consider taking these precautionary measures from the USDA, listed below.
- Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
- Make sure the freezer is at 0 F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 F or below.
- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
- Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry, that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
- Group food together in the freezer—this helps the food stay cold longer.
- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
If a power outage has already occurredFollow these USDA recommendations for safe fridges and freezers after a power outage has occurred.
- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed 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) if the door remains closed.
- Discard refrigerated perishable food, such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items, after 4 hours without power.
- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 F or below when checked with a food thermometer.
- Never taste a food to determine its safety.
- Obtain dry or block 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 two days.
- If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
- If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Last Reviewed: July 2022
By: Gwen Crum, WVU Extension Family and Community Development Agent, Wood County