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Frequently Asked Questions

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A1. This video from the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) Food Safety During Power Outages provides critical information for consumers. Did you know that a flood, fire, national disaster, or the loss of power from high winds, snow, or ice could jeopardize the safety of your food? Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help minimize the potential loss of food and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.  For more information contact the USDA at 1-888-MPHOTLINE or ASK Karen

A2. Here’s guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

What Consumers Need to Know About Food and Water Safety During Hurricanes, Power Outages, and Floods

Power Outages: During and After Video:  FDA Food Safety During a Power Outage

When the Power Goes Out . . .

Here are basic tips for keeping food safe:

– Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
– The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
– A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
– 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 hold an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two days.
– If you plan to eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40 °F for 2 hours or more — discard it.
– Wash fruits and vegetables with water from a safe source before eating.
– For infants, try to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local water source is potentially contaminated.

Once Power is Restored . . .

You’ll need to determine the safety of your food. Here’s how:

– If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer 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 its safety. 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 or cook.
– Refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power was out for no more than 4 hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
– Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked.