Food Safety 101: What to Keep After a Power Outage

When the power goes out for a few hours during a storm, there’s typically nothing to worry about. After all, you’re indoors safe and sound. But, what about all the food in your freezer and fridge? Is it still safe to eat after hours without refrigeration?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, here are some safety guidelines for handling refrigerated food before, during and after a power outage.

Before an Outage
If you have advance warning about an emergency that could cause an extended power outage, you should:
  • Pack a cooler with ice ahead of time to keep refrigerated food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours.
  • ​Keep canned goods and bottled water on hand
  • ​Buy a handheld can opener to use during an emergency.
  • ​Have ready-to-use baby formula and pet food, if needed.
During an Outage
Don’t open your refrigerator or freezer doors, if possible. Cold temperatures keep bacteria from growing and preserve your food longer. In most cases, your food will be safe for up to four hours in an unopened refrigerator and 48 hours in a full, unopened freezer.

After an Outage
Once power is restored, don’t assume all your food is still safe to eat.
  • Throw away any thawed food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours
  • Get rid of food that has an unusual colour or odour, but remember that contaminated food will not always smell bad or appear spoiled.
  • Refreeze food that still contains ice crystals or feels refrigerator-cold.
  • If raw food has leaked during thawing, clean and disinfect the areas the food has touched. Do not reuse the cloths you have used for clean-up until they have been disinfected by washing in hot water.
Going hours without power is stressful enough.The last thing you want to do is make it worse by eating contaminated food that will cause you to get sick. If there is any question about whether a food is safe to eat, don’t chance it, throw it out.