Food Safety After the Power Is Restored

— Written By Janine Rywak and last updated by

Matthew paid us a dangerous visit. He was nicer to some of us. All of us experienced at least some power outages and many experienced lengthier challenges without power. Once the lights do come back on, one of the first questions is, what about the food?

And the answer always is, that depends. That depends with the freezer more so than the refrigerator. Freezers staying cold enough to keep food safe during a power outage depends on the amount and kind of food in the freezer, the freezer itself and the size of the freezer.

A closed freezer can keep food below 41 degrees F for up to 48 hours and possibly even three days if it is full, and kept cold by not opening the door. But a refrigerator is a different story. A closed fridge will keep food below 41 degrees F only about four hours after a power loss.

Here are a few tips for dealing with your appliances during a power outage. Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. You may safely re-freeze foods that still contain ice crystals or have been kept at 41 degrees or below.

As for refrigerated foods, unsafe food may not appear to smell or be spoiled. For that reason, use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to check foods for both cooking and storage temperatures.

Some foods that may salvageable include hard and processed cheeses, butter and margarine, fresh fruit and fruit juices, non-mayonnaise based condiments, pickles and olives, breads and cakes, fruit pies, and fresh vegetables and spices.

If you have a lengthy power outage and no back-up generator to periodically run your appliances, you may have a nasty problem. If that is the case, after your power has been restored, you will need to clean and deodorize your refrigerator.

So follow these helpful tips. Remove all drawers, racks, and shelves. Wash them in soapy water and rinse in clear water. Then wipe them down with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.

Wash the inside of the refrigerator with a mixture of one cup of baking soda to a gallon of warm water. Turn on the refrigerator and fill it with clean, crumpled newspaper that has been sprinkled with water.

Continue to run the refrigerator for several days, changing newspapers every other day. Once refrigerator odor has been significantly reduced, place an open box of baking soda inside, and start using your refrigerator again.

Here is hoping that did not happen to you. But if so, our hearts go out to you. And we hope you find this information is helpful.