If you have ever found yourself in the middle of a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disasters that cause a power outage, there are always questions about the food in your refrigerator and freezer. How long will the food be okay to eat? What should I throw out, and when?
Emergencies often come with extreme weather conditions and having a good plan in place before a power outage is a good strategy to have. However, if you haven't had time to prepare, knowing how to properly handle your food when the power goes out can prevent you from having to throw out a few things, and keep you from eating something that could be unhealthy.
As soon as your power goes out, mark the time, so you know what to do moving forward.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the proper temperature for your refrigerator is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with the perfect range being between 35 and 38 degrees. As for your freezer, you want to keep that at zero degrees. If you don't have appliance thermometers, put a couple of ice cubes in a plastic Ziploc bag, once they start to melt you will know that your freezer is above 32 degrees and getting close to dangerous temperature levels
When the power goes out, a refrigerator can keep the proper temperature for about four to six hours if you can avoid opening the doors too much. And, a fuller refrigerator stays colder longer than an emptier one. For a full freestanding freezer, it can keep an acceptable temperature for 48 hours if the doors remain closed, 24 hours if it is half-full.
Michigan State University recommends covering your refrigerator and freezer with newspaper and blankets (just don't cover the vents) to slow down the rising temperature.
If your power has stayed off for more than four hours, it is time to start making decisions. Hopefully, you have a refrigerator thermometer to help you track the temperature because this will help you determine what is safe to keep and what to throw out.
Once your refrigerator's temperature rises above 40 degrees, you only have about two hours before you have to pitch perishable items. So, at that point, it is time to fire up the grill and get to cooking or get your trash can ready.
FoodSafety.gov says that the items that you need to pitch when they have been above 40 degrees for more than two hours are:
Safe items in your refrigerator include --