Food safety and power outages

This page has information about consuming and storing food safely during and after a power outage.

The basic rule is, 'if in doubt, throw it out'.

When the power goes out

Record the time the power outage starts so you know how long your food has been without refrigeration.

Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Only open them when absolutely necessary - this will keep the food colder for longer.

Place refrigerated foods together to keep them colder for longer.

Place meat, poultry or fish in the coldest section of your refrigerator, making sure they don’t drip onto fresh fruit and vegetables or other ready-to-eat foods. 

If needed, use ice to help keep food cold when the power is out.

How long food will stay cold

A closed refrigerator should keep your food cool for four to six hours.

Kept closed, a full freezer should keep your food frozen for up to 48 hours, while a half-full freezer should keep your food frozen for up to 24 hours.

The rate of thawing depends on the amount of food in the freezer. A full freezer stays colder than one that is partly full.

When the power comes back on

If the power is restored within four to six hours and your fridge or freezer doors have remained closed, some of your food may still be OK.   

Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been warm too long, they may contain enough bacteria to make people ill.   

If raw food - especially meat, poultry and fish - drip juices, clean and disinfect all affected areas in the fridge or freezer, as well as any counter tops, cutting boards and utensils that have been affected.

The only reliable way to check your food is safe is to check its temperature with a thermometer.

How to check food in the freezer is OK

Food in the freezer can be refrozen or used if it is at 0 degrees Celsius or lower when you check with a thermometer or if ice crystals are visible in the food.

If it is above 0 degrees Celsius you should throw it out.

How to check food in the fridge is OK

If the food in your fridge has been above 5 degrees Celsius for less than two hours, it is OK to eat or keep. 

If it has been above 5 degrees Celsius for two to four hours, the food can be used, but you must use it immediately. 

It it has been above 5 degrees Celsius for more than four hours, you must throw the food out.

Cooking interrupted by power failure

Throw out food that was being cooked when the power went out.

In the case of properly cooked hot food, eat it within four hours or throw it out.

Do not put hot food in your refrigerator or freezer. Without power, this will cause the refrigerator or freezer to warm up much faster.

Last updated: 27 June 2017