What foods can you store?

Hurricanes, heat waves and other natural disasters increase the risk of power outages. And if the power goes out for a long time, food in your fridge and freezer can spoil and become unsafe to eat. If the financial consequences of losing a fridge full of food are hard to swallow, the impact on your health from food poisoning – especially if you’re elderly – is even harder to bear.

During a power outage, it is important to know how long the food in your refrigerator and freezer will remain safe to eat. It is also important to know the steps you can take to assess the safety of your food and keep it as long as possible. Follow these eight tips from food safety experts to avoid getting sick from spoiled food during a power outage.

Before a power outage:

  1. Store the refrigerator at 4°C or lower and the freezer at -17°C or lower. This will allow you to maintain the quality of your food a little longer if you lose power. When the internal temperature of chilled and frozen foods rises above 4 degrees, the bacteria that cause foodborne illness can begin to multiply.
  2. Buy dry ice or ice packs to keep your food cold in the fridge for longer. It can be helpful to have a cooler and frozen gel packs on hand if you need to remove food from the refrigerator to keep it cold.

During a power outage:

  1. Keep your freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible. Food is safe to store for up to 48 hours in a full freezer, 24 hours in a half-full freezer and up to four hours in the fridge.
  2. Transfer chilled foods to a cooler if the power has been out for four hours. Keep the temperature of the cooler at 4 degrees or lower using ice or a frozen gel pack.

After a power failure:

  1. Never taste a food to see if it is still good. There can be bacteria that cause food poisoning even if the food looks, smells or tastes normal.
  2. Refreeze or cook frozen foods if they still contain ice crystals or if their temperature is below 4 degrees on a food thermometer. Otherwise, discard foods that are too hot or have a strange smell, texture or color.
  3. Throw away perishable foods. Pay special attention to foods such as meat, fish, cut fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and leftovers if the power is out for more than four hours without an additional cooling source. If you have had a flood, throw away any raw food that has come into contact with the water.
  4. Clean and disinfect kitchen items and surfaces that have been flooded, such as dishes, utensils, the refrigerator drawer or kitchen counters. Wash them first with clean, soapy water, then disinfect them with a bleach solution.

Food must be stored at a temperature above 4 degrees for more than two hours.

  • Hard cheeses
  • Processed cheeses
  • Grated Parmesan and/or Romano in a jar or can.
  • Butter, margarine
  • Fresh uncut fruits
  • Juice
  • canned fruit
  • Dried fruits, raisins, candied fruits, dates.
  • Open mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish (unless the temperature is above 50 degrees for more than eight hours).
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, ketchup, olives, pickles.
  • Worcestershire, soy, barbecue and hoisin sauces.
  • Vinegar-based dressings
  • Fruit tarts
  • Uncut vegetables
  • Mushrooms, herbs, spices

Frozen foods that are safe to refreeze if thawed and at a temperature above 4 degrees for more than two hours.

  • Home-grown or packaged fruit (unless mold or slime is visible)
  • Packaged or blanched vegetables at home or in stores (discard after six hours)
  • Bread, rolls, muffins (without pastry cream filling)
  • Pie dough, commercial or homemade bread dough
  • Flour, cornmeal, nuts
  • Waffles, pancakes, bagels

Food to throw out after a natural disaster.

  • Foods that are abnormal in smell, color or texture.
  • Food in packaging that is not airtight.
  • Food in cardboard containers.
  • Food containers with screw lids, pressure caps, twist caps and pressure caps.
  • Cans or containers that are bulging, open or damaged.
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language that is accessible to everyone. IN NO CASE can the information given replace the opinion of a healthcare professional.

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