Guidelines for Food Safety in Power Outages

Photo shows lightning striking the ground on a stormy night
A power outage may occur during a seasonal storm such as a tornado, ice storm, flood, or may simply be caused by work being done on electric lines.  Whatever the cause, the following recommendations apply to food safety in power outages.

Use a Thermometer: 
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer at all times to see if food is being stored at safe temperatures (34 to 45ºF for the refrigerator; 0ºF or below for the freezer).  The key to determining the safety of foods in the refrigerator and freezer is how cold they are.  Most foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria that multiply rapidly at temperatures above 45ºF.
Leave the Freezer Door Closed:  A full freezer should keep food safe about two days; a half-full freezer, about a day.  Add bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time.  You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold to the touch.
Refrigerated items:  These foods should be safe as long as the power is out no more than about four to six hours.  Discard any perishable food that has been above 45ºF for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture.  Leave the door closed; every time you open it, needed cold air escapes, causing the foods inside to reach unsafe temperatures.
If it appears the power will be off more than six hours, transfer perishable foods to an insulator cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs.  Keep a thermometer in the cooler to be sure the food stays at 45ºF or below.
Never Taste Food to Determine Its Safety:  Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they've been at room temperature longer than two hours, bacteria able to cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply very rapidly.  Some types will produce toxins, which are not destroyed by cooking and can possibly cause illness.

                                        Refrigerator Foods: When to Save and When to Throw It Out

Food Held above 45°F for over 2 hours
Meat, Poultry, Seafood
​Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes,
​gravy, stuffing, broth, lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef
Soft Cheeses:  blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam,
​Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, Queso blanco fresco,
​Processed Cheeses, Shredded Cheeses, Low-Fat Cheeses
Hard Cheeses:  Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano, Grated
​Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)
Dairy: Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog,
​soy milk, opened baby formula
Butter, margarine Safe
Eggs:  Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products,
​custards and puddings
Casseroles, Soups, Stews Discard
Fruits:  Fresh fruits (cut) Discard
Fruit juices (opened), Canned fruits (opened), Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins,
​dried fruits, candied fruits, dates 
Sauces, Spreads, Jams:  Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish Discard if above 50°F
​for over 8 hours. 
Peanut butter, Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles,
​Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin sauces, vinegar-based dressings
Fish sauces (oyster sauce), Opened creamy-based dressings,
​Spaghetti sauce (opened jar)
Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Pasta, Grains:  Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins
​quick breads, tortillas, Breakfast foods- waffles, pancakes, bagels
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, and cookie dough, Cooked pasta, rice
​potatoes, Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette, Fresh pasta,
Pies, Pastry:  Pastries (cream filled), Pies- custard, cheese filled or chiffon;
Pies (fruit) Safe
Vegetables:  Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices, Vegetables (raw) Safe
Greens (pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged), Vegetables (cooked); tofu
​Vegetable juices (opened), Baked potatoes, Commercial garlic in oil,
​Potato Salad

                                             Frozen Foods - When to Save and When to Throw It Out

Food  Still contains ice
​crystals and feels
​as cold as if
Thawed and
​held above
​45°F for over
​2 hours
Meat, Poultry, Seafood:  Beef, veal,
​lamb, pork, and ground meats, Poultry and
​ground poultry, Variety meats (liver, kidney,
​heart, chitterlings), Casseroles, stews, soups
Refreeze Discard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood products Refreeze.  However,
​there will be some texture
​and flavor loss.
Dairy:  Milk, Cheese (soft and semi-soft) Refreeze.  May lose some
Eggs (out of shell) and egg products Refreeze Discard
Ice cream, frozen yogurt Discard Discard
Hard cheeses Refreeze Refreeze
Shredded cheeses, Casseroles containing milk,
​cream, eggs, soft cheeses, Cheesecake
Refreeze Discard
Fruits:  Juices Refreeze Refreeze.  Discard
​if mold, yeasty smell,
​or sliminess develops.
Breads, Pastries:  Breads, rolls, muffins,
​cakes (without custard fillings)
Refreeze Refreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese
Refreeze Discard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread
Refreeze.  Some
​quality loss may
Refreeze.  Quality loss
​is considerable.
Other:  Casseroles (pasta, rice based) Refreeze Discard
Flour, cornmeal, nuts Refreeze Refreeze
Breakfast items- waffles, pancakes, bagels Refreeze Refreeze
Frozen meal, entrée, specialty items (pizza,
​sausage, and biscuit, meat pie, convenience
Refreeze Discard