Food Safety during a Power Outage

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With an extended power outage, food you normally keep in the refrigerator or freezer may become unsafe to eat. In addition, if you are on a well, your water pump and any related treatment devices such as UV lights will not function.

The following food safety practices may help prevent unpleasant and possibly serious illness from consuming spoiled food or contaminated water.

General food safety:

  • Never taste food to determine its safety.  When in doubt, throw it out.
  • If you handle food that has spoiled:
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling.  If water is not available for hand washing, use hand sanitizer.
    • Clean and disinfect any surface in your home that may have come in contact with raw or spoiled food.  
  • An appliance thermometer is the best way to measure fridge or freezer temperature
    • The ideal temperature for your fridge is 4⁰C (40⁰F)and your freezer is -18⁰C (0⁰F)
  •  An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours.
  • An unopened freezer that is filled with frozen food will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours and about 24 hours if it is less than full.
  • Food in your freezer that has thawed but still has ice crystals can be re-frozen.  If no ice crystals are visible but the food is still refrigerator cold, it will be safe to cook and consume or cook and freeze.
  • Exercise caution when placing frozen food outside in winter.  The sun’s rays could thaw frozen food even when the outdoor temperature is very cold, and animals could contaminate your food. 

Foods to Discard

Discard these foods if they have been exposed to temperatures warmer than 4⁰C (40⁰F) for 2 hours or more, or have an unusual odour, colour or texture:

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and luncheon meats
  • Casseroles, stews or soups
  • Milk and soft cheeses
  • Homemade mayonnaise or dressings
  • Cooked pasta, potatoes or rice
  • Salads made with any of these foods

Foods to Save

Foods that are generally safe to keep after several days without power, unless they have an unusual odour, colour or texture, include:

  • Butter and margarine
  • Hard or processed cheese
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables that have not been cut
  • Mustard, ketchup, olives
  • Commercially prepared salad dressings, peanut butter, barbeque sauce
  • Jams and jellies

Drinking water safety 

If your home has a generator that can power your water pump, you can use the water as you did before the power failure.  However, if your home has an ultraviolet (UV) light as a treatment system, verify it is still working. 

  • Ensure you have an alternate source of safe water, i.e. commercially bottled water.
    • Plan ahead by keeping an emergency water supply on hand (About 2 litres (1 gallon) of water per day for each person)
  • Do not use rain barrel water or any water that could possibly be contaminated for drinking, washing dishes, brushing teeth, preparing food, making ice or baby formula.

For more information, visit Food Safety in an Emergency

Preparing for a possible power outage 

  • Check that the temperature of your fridge and freezer is set at the proper temperature, i.e. fridge at or below 4C(40F); freezer at or below -18C(0F).
  • Have a cooler with ice ready ahead of time to keep refrigerated food cold if you suspect the power will be out for an extended period of time.
  • Have a supply of drinking water available, i.e. two litres (1 gallon) of water per day per person.
  • Have items on hand that do not require refrigeration, such as shelf-stable foods, including canned goods and bottled water.  Remember to replace these emergency storage food items periodically.
  • Make sure to have ready-to-use baby formula and pet food if needed.
  • Ensure you have a hand-held can opener to use.

For information about preparing for an emergency, visit Emergency Preparedness
 

Date de publication : 
le 12 Février 2020
Santé et Mieux‑être

Renseignements généraux

Hygiène de l'environnement
Immeuble Sullivan, 2ième étage
16 rue Fitzroy
Charlottetown (Î.-P.-É.) C1A 7N8
Téléphone: 902-368-4970
1-800-958-6400

envhealth@ihis.org