Power outage? Worried about your food?

No lights? No A/C? No power to your refrigerator?

The techniques for handling food during power outages, when applied, will reduce the possibility of bacterial growth in food and help food remain safe for human consumption.

Raw Foods:

As a general rule, discard fresh meats, fish, poultry, or dairy products if the color or odor is poor or questionable. The rule is “When in doubt, throw it out.” Saving or eating a possibly contaminated food product is never worth the risk of food borne illness.

Perishable (or potentially hazardous) Foods:

Perishable food, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and leftovers that have been held at temperatures greater than 41ºF for more than four hours should be discarded.

Thawed food in the freezer, including raw meats and vegetables and fruits without sauces, that contain ice crystals or have been held at 41ºF or below can be refrozen and cooked. However, do not refreeze thawed cooked foods or packaged dinners that have thawed out. Pre-cooked thawed items are highly susceptible to bacterial growth.

Maintaining Foods Safe in the Freezer:

After a power outage, keep the freezer door shut for as long as possible. A full freezer will keep food at freezing temperatures for about two days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for about one day. If the power is off for several days consider using dry ice. Check the yellow pages of your telephone directory for “ice”. Many grocery stores have dry ice. Call ahead to make sure that the grocer has an adequate supply. Allow 2 ½-3 pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of freezer space in a chest freezer. In an upright freezer more dry ice is required so that ice can be placed on each shelf. Because dry ice can burn exposed skin, do not touch it with bare hands. Follow instructions on dry ice usage carefully. Make sure it is wrapped in several layers of newspaper before placing it in the freezer.


Cook or heat food to a minimum of 145º. If food is to be reheated, it must be rapidly reheated to a minimum of 165º. Use a probe-type metal thermometer to test the final cooking temperature.

Store perishable or potentially hazardous food cold food at a minimum of 41º F or below.

Water and Cleanliness

Safe potable water must be available and used for cooking, dishwashing, drinking and maintaining personal hygiene. If the Municipal water supply is not safe, use bottled, boiled or treated water. Make sure dishes and utensils are clean by washing, rinsing and sanitizing them in safe potable water. Sanitization is very important at this time. Effective sanitization can be obtained by adding one ounce of regular household chlorine bleach (unscented type) to each gallon of safe potable cool water. Wash with soap and water first, rinse with clean water second, and sanitize with bleach water, using the proper proportion of bleach to water. Allow bleach-water solution to air-dry on the utensils. Store the clean utensils in a clean place to protect them from recontamination.

The use of single service items is encouraged to reduce the possibility of food borne illness. Paper plates and cups, plastic knives and forks that are used only once and discarded are highly recommended.

Insects and Rodent Activity

Since air conditioning usually does not work during power outages, door and windows are usually kept open. Insects and rodents may gain entrance into the building. Make sure that doors and windows are adequately screened, using screening material of not less than 16 mesh to the inch.

By discarding spoiled food, controlling food temperatures, keeping utensils clean and sanitary and by keeping pests out, the fear of food borne illness can be eliminated from your post-disaster recovery concerns.

If you have specific concerns, please let me know or call your local Health Department.

Hope you get your power and utilities back up and running soon! Stay safe!