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Food Protection During a Power Outage

Author: Jacquelyn Langdon/Thursday, March 09, 2017/Categories: Health

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Food Protection During a Power Outage

The Niagara County Department of Health's Environmental Division often responds to public inquiries regarding protection and disposal of refrigerated and frozen foods during prolonged power outages. If the power is out for more than two hours, the food in your refrigerator and/or freezer may not be safe to eat. A good rule of thumb is “if in doubt, throw it out”.

You can protect refrigerated and frozen foods by following a few important steps. A cooler filled with freeze packs or ice made from drinking water can help keep refrigerated food cold. Bowls packed with snow (if available) can also keep food cold; do not however contaminate food with snow. Dry ice, salted ice, or packed snow in bowls can help to maintain the temperature of frozen foods. Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible, and avoid frequent opening.

It is important to avoid consuming certain foods. Use a metal-stem meat thermometer to test the temperature of food. Discard perishable foods such as eggs, milk, meats, poultry, seafood, cooked leftovers, gravies, soups or products containing these ingredients if they were held above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Foods such as fruits, vegetables, juices, cheeses and condiments may be stored above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended time, but should be checked for appearance, odor, texture and color before consumption. Never taste food to determine its safety. Frozen foods that have thawed (soft to touch, melting/melted) but not held above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, should be cooked immediately and either consumed, refrigerated, or discarded. Foods such as breads, fruits, vegetables, can be cooked and either consumed immediately or refrozen. Refreezing may cause a loss in nutritional and/or taste value. Always keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed and open only when necessary.

For more information, please contact the Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division at 439-7444 or visit our website at


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