What to Keep and What to Throw Out After a Power Outage in Your Fridge or Freezer

One of the first questions that arise after losing power for an extended length of time is what food you need to throw out and what food is safe to keep. In this article, we have compiled a list of common foods from the fridge and freezer and guidance on which of them you can keep and which needs to be discarded. Always scrutinize each item and use your best judgment. Whenever you're in doubt, the item should be thrown out.

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Food is safe in your refrigerator for up to 4 hours during a power outage, according to the FDA. Avoid opening and closing the refrigerator door, however brief, to ensure the fridge stays as cool as possible.

Use the following charts as a general guide to what food from the fridge should be thrown out after a power outage and when the food is held above 40 degrees F for more than 2 hours:

Food in the Freezer: What To Keep and What To Throw Out

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After a power outage, a freezer will hold a safe temperature for up to 48 hours if it is full and up to 24 hours if it is half full. Always keep the door closed and avoid opening and closing the door during an outage, however brief. Foods have been categorized so as to identify the ones to be discarded or reserved.

1. Condiments, sauces, and Sauces: Jam, jelly, chutney, pickles, olives, vinegar-based salad dressing, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, mayonnaise, and tartar sauce should be kept while spaghetti sauce, pasta sauce and commercial garlic in oil should be discarded.

2. Dairy, Cheese, and Eggs: Eggs (raw or cooked), Milk, buttermilk, evaporated milk, cream, sour cream, Yogurt, kefir, Baby formula (opened), Soft cheeses (blue, Brie, Camembert, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, chevre, queso Blanco, queso fresco), Cottage cheese, cream cheese, shredded cheese, pudding, custard, and eggnog should be discarded.

3. Hard and semi-hard cheeses (Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Manchego, Gruyere, Pecorino Romano), Butter, margarine, processed cheese (e.g., Velveeta), Grated hard cheese (e.g., Parmesan) should not be thrown out.

Food Safety Tips During a Power Outage

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  • Don't taste food to judge
  • Never taste food when trying to determine if it is safe to eat or not. If you're ever unsure or even have a suspicion that something is unsafe to eat, it should be discarded.
  • Check temperatures

Use the refrigerator's own thermometer or an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of the fridge after 4 hours; if it is at or below 40 degrees F, according to the FDA, your food should be safe to consume. You can also check the temperature of the food itself by using a food thermometer.

For further preservation, ice could be considered for long outages. According to the FDA: "Buy dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep an 18 cubic foot, fully stocked freezer cold for two days."

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