Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the recent public safety power shutoffs. With extended loss of power, refrigerators and freezers are often unable to keep food chilled to safe temperatures. This greatly increases the risk of foodborne illnesses, especially for vulnerable populations such as infants, toddlers, and the elderly.
Perishable foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy should always be kept at or below 40°F. Frozen foods should be kept at or below 0°F degrees. The following tips will help keep your food safe during the next power outage:
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible! An unpowered refrigerator can keep food at safe temperatures for up to 4 hours, and a full freezer approximately 48 hours (24 hours if half full) if the doors remain closed.
- Obtain dry or blocked ice for prolonged power outages.
- 50 pounds of dry ice will keep food safe in an 18-cubic foot freezer for 2 days.
- Prepare ahead of time by filling plastic storage containers with water and store them in the freezer. The frozen containers can be used as ice blocks in the freezer, refrigerator, or ice chest to keep food at safe temperatures.
- Be temperature wise! Keep thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer to determine if foods have been exposed to unsafe temperatures during a power outage.
- Never taste food to determine its safety! The appearance and odor of food will not determine if it’s safe to eat. Throw away any perishable foods such as meat, eggs, and dairy that have been kept at 41°F or warmer for 2 hours or more!
Keeping your food safe during a power outage will prevent you and your family from being exposed to foodborne illnesses and prevent food from going to waste.
For more information and tips on food safety during a power outage Contact the UC CalFresh Healthy Living Program. CalFresh is supported by USDA SNAP and provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious foods for better health. For CalFresh information, call 1-877-847-3663.
If in doubt, throw it out
When returning to your home, you should discard any food, beverage, or medication exposed to heat, smoke, or soot. The potency of some medications can be altered by exposure to heat, so check with your doctor before using any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
Throw away any consumable items that may have come in contact with heat, fumes, water, or chemicals.
- Refrigerators and freezers may not be airtight and power may have been interrupted while you were away.
- Discard any foods that have been above 40°F for over two hours.
For more detailed information, please refer to references provided below.