Power shutoff food safety: Save it, or throw it out?

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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When the power goes out, an important decision everyone faces is what food is safe to keep and what food needs to be thrown out.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When the power goes out, one of the most important decisions everyone faces is what food is safe to keep and what food needs to be thrown out.

The USDA advises that your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours during a power outage.

They also have several important tips about general food safety during a power outage:

  • Keep the door closed as much as possible
  • Throw out perishable food (meat, poultry, eggs, and leftovers) after 4 hours without power
  • After an outage, never taste food to determine its safety
  • When in doubt, throw it out!

They say that you will have to evaluate each item separately after an outage.

Below is a list of their recommendations:

Refrigerated Food (Held above 40 degrees for more than 2 hours)

Meat, poultry, seafood:

Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, seafood, soy meat substitutes - Discard

Thawing meat or poultry - Discard

Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad - Discard

Gravy, stuffing, broth - Discard

Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef - Discard

Pizza with any topping - Discard

Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated" - Discard

Canned meats and fish, opened - Discard

Casseroles, soups, stews - Discard


Soft cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco - Discard

Hard cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano - Keep

Processed cheeses - Keep

Shredded cheeses - Discard

Low-fat cheeses - Discard

Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar) - Keep


Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk - Discard

Butter, margarine - Keep

Baby formula, opened - Discard


Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products - Discard

Custards and puddings, quiche - Discard


Fresh fruits, cut - Discard

Fresh fruits, uncut - Keep

Fruit juices, opened - Keep

Canned fruits, opened - Keep

Dried fruits, raisins, candied fruits, dates - Keep

Sliced or shredded coconut - Discard

Sauces, Spreads, Jams:

Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish - Discard

(if above 50 F for more than 8 hrs)

Peanut butter - Keep

Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles - Keep

Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces - Keep

Fish sauces, oyster sauce - Discard

Opened vinegar-based dressings - Keep

Opened creamy-based dressings - Discard

Spaghetti sauce, opened - Discard

Bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, grains:

Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas - Keep

Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough - Discard

Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes - Discard

Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette - Discard

Fresh pasta - Discard

Cheesecake - Discard

Breakfast foods: waffles, pancakes, bagels - Keep

Pies and pastry:

Cream filled pastries - Discard

Pies: custard, cheese-filled, or chiffon; quiche - Discard

Fruit pies - Keep


Fresh vegetables, cut - Discard

Fresh vegetables, uncut - Keep

Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices - Keep

Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged - Discard

Vegetables, cooked - Discard

Tofu, cooked - Discard

Vegetable juice, opened - Discard

Baked potatoes -Discard

Commercial garlic in oil -Discard

Potato salad -Discard

Casseroles, soups, stews -Discard

Frozen Food:

A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours. If it is half full, it only holds food safely for one day, but the door has to stay closed.

The food safety website says it IS ok to refreeze some foods IF it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees F or colder. The quality may suffer, but in most cases it is safe. If the food is thawed of at a temperature above 40 degrees F for more than two hours, it will likely have to be discarded.

This chart shows what to do with different frozen foods depending on the temperature and if it has thawed.

Never taste food to determine if is still good or not, health officials warn.

For more information go to this website