Hurricanes and severe storms can cause power outages and food safety issues. Unfortunately, many people have recently lost power for extended periods resulting in loss of refrigeration. Frequently, people want to know how long their food will keep in the refrigerator and/or freezer after an outage.
In general, the recommended temperature for refrigerated items is 40 degrees or below. The ideal temperature for your freezer is 0 degrees or below. On a weekly basis it is important to monitor your units with thermometers. These can be purchased at any hardware or food store.
What to do during a power outage:
First, when the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut to maintain the cold temperatures! Post a sign on your refrigerator to remind your family members not to open.
• Usually a full freezer will hold its temperature for 48 hours or 24 hours for a half-full freezer.
• If your freezer is only partially full, quickly regroup the items next to each other. This will help the items stay frozen for approximately a day.
• Move your food to a neighbor's or family member's freezer if they have extra space, or get a bag of ice to put in your freezer.
• Once the power returns, check the items in your freezer immediately. If they are still partially frozen and have ice crystals, it is safe to refreeze or cook the items.
• If the items are thawed and held above 40 degrees for over two hours, throw the items out.
• Foods can be kept safely for approximately four hours if the door is kept closed.
• If the temperature in your refrigerator rises above 41 degrees for more than two hours, discard the following types of foods: meats, meat and fish salads, gravy, luncheon meats, bacon, sausage, pizza, opened canned meats, soft cheeses, shredded and low fat cheeses, dairy products, opened baby formula, eggs, custards, puddings, casseroles, soups and stews.
For a detailed list of what foods should be thrown out after a power outage go to:
Most importantly, do not taste food to see if it is safe. When in doubt, throw it out, or call your Family Consumer Sciences agent at your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.