Summertime means warmer weather—and, oftentimes, severe or unpredictable weather, which can result in power outages that can sometimes last for hours, if not days.
One of the first casualties of a power outage could be the items in your refrigerator and freezer. How long will they last? When should you toss them? The answers below will help you salvage as much as possible and stay safe when the power returns.
What to Know
- The magic numbers are 40°F in the fridge and 0°F in the freezer—the respective maximum temperatures at which food will stay viable.
- Of course, every minute the power is out, those temperatures will likely start creeping up. To slow this process down, keep the cold locked in by only opening the doors as necessary.
- Your fridge will keep items safe for up to four hours, while your freezer will do so for between one and two days, depending on how full it is.
- Plan ahead. For example, keeping a food thermometer in the fridge and freezer can help you check the temps every few hours once the power goes out. Also, if you have coolers and freezer packs, you can transfer some items so they stay cool longer.
Do not taste the food to determine if it’s good! Instead, follow the guidelines below.
Time to Trash?
If the temperature has been above 40°F for two or more hours, discard items like meats and eggs, soft, shredded, and low-fat cheeses, sliced fruits and veggies, and dairy except salted butter and margarine (as salt is a natural preserver).
You can refreeze virtually anything (other than ice cream, of course) if it’s still at fridge temperature or has ice crystals. However, if your freezer temperature rises above 40°F for two or more hours, the opposite is true: most items would need to be discarded.
For a complete list of what to do with specific foods, visit foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts