The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends to always keep meat, poultry, fish, and eggs refrigerated at or below 40 °F and frozen food at or below 0 °F. This may be difficult when the power is out.

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible 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. Obtain dry or block ice to keep your 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 hold an 18-cubic foot full freezer for 2 days. Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

A snowstorm knocked down the power lines, can I put the food from the refrigerator and freezer out in the snow?

No, frozen food can thaw if it is exposed to the sun’s rays even when the temperature is very cold.   Refrigerated food may become too warm and foodborne bacteria could grow. The outside temperature could vary hour by hour and the temperature outside will not protect refrigerated and frozen food. Additionally, perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals. Animals may harbor bacteria or disease; never consume food that has come in contact with an animal. Rather than putting the food outside, consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice. Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then put the homemade ice in   your refrigerator, freezer, or coolers.

Some of my food in the freezer started to thaw or had thawed when the power came back on. Is the food safe? How long will the food in the refrigerator be safe with the power off?

Never taste food to determine its safety!  You will have to evaluate each   item separately. If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when the power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer stored in the freezer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe and may be   refrozen. If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety. Remember you can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or  below, it is safe to refreeze. Refrigerated food should be safe as long as power is out no more than 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible.  Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for 2 hours.

May I refreeze the food in the   freezer if it thawed or partially thawed?

Yes, the food may be safely refrozen if the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below. You will have to evaluate each item separately. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices. Partial thawing and refreezing may reduce the quality of some food, but the food will remain safe to eat. See the attached charts for specific recommendations.

Refrigerated Foods – When to Save and When to Throw It Out
FOOD Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes

Discard

Thawing meat or poultry

Discard

Meat, tuna, shrimp,chicken, or egg salad

Discard

Gravy, stuffing, broth

Discard

Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef

Discard

Pizza, with any topping

Discard

Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated”

Discard

Canned meats and fish, opened

Discard

CHEESE
Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco

Discard

Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano

Safe

Processed Cheeses

Safe

Shredded Cheeses

Discard

Low-fat Cheeses

Discard

Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)

Safe

DAIRY
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk

Discard

Butter, margarine

Safe

Baby formula, opened

Discard

EGGS
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

Discard

Custards and puddings

Discard

CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWS

Discard

FRUITS
Fresh fruits, cut

Discard

Fruit juices, opened

Safe

Canned fruits, opened

Safe

Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates

Safe

SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish

Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.