How Long Will Food Last In Fridge Without Power?

Last Updated on September 23, 2022 by P. Simon

Many people are fearful of eating food from the refrigerator after a power failure. However, you need not throw all the content of your fridge because of a power cut.

Food can stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours after a power outage. Some types of food can last up to 6 hours in the refrigerator and up to 24-48 hours in the freezer.

However, to prevent food poisoning, you need to know what type of food you can keep and what you need to toss in the bin after a power outage, depending on how long it has been since the power went off.

This article gives you a few food safety tips to help you make these decisions in an emergency.

How Long Will Food Last In Fridge Without Power?
How Long Will Food Last In Fridge Without Power?

How Long is Food Safe in the Refrigerator Without Power?

Bacteria multiply in neutral or slightly acidic food like meat, poultry, and vegetables, especially at a warm temperature. Without power, these temperatures begin to rise and potentially reach a level that encourages bacterial growth on the food and compromises its safety.

To prevent bacteria growth that could cause foodborne illnesses, you should ensure that the temperature in your fridge is set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Fahrenheit in your freezer.

Food can stay safe for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator at this temperature, 24 hours in a half-full freezer, and 48 hours in a full freezer.

Tip: Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed as soon as the power goes out. Opening your refrigerator and freezer doors lets in warm air that raises the temperature.

The food will be safe for consumption if power is restored within this time frame. However, if you opened the refrigerator doors during that time, significantly more than once, there are chances that some food may not be safe to consume.

Regardless of the situation, when power is restored within the recommended time frame, you should check whether food is no longer fit for consumption.

Never taste food to find out whether it’s good or bad. Instead, check the temperature of the food and determine whether it is still safe and check for unusual scent, texture, or color and discard them.

If the power outage lasts for longer than the specified time limits, all perishable foodstuffs should be thrown out to prevent chances of food poisoning.

Tips on How to Keep Food Safe During and After an Electric Failure

As soon as the power goes out, keep the refrigerator doors closed to maintain the set temperature. The 4 hours safety rule in the refrigerator only applies when the fridge and freezer door is kept close the entire time. The same applies to a half-full and full freezer.

Get block or dry ice as soon as the power goes out to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible. If your refrigerator is about 18 cubic feet, dry ice weighing 50 pounds could keep your fully stocked freezer cold for 48 hours.

You should check whether your refrigerator was more than 40º F for more than two hours and 90 º F for more than an hour; it is advisable to toss all fish, poultry, meat, or eggs in the bins.

Best Refrigerator Thermometers

However, if they are still within the safe temperature when power gets back, and you wish to consume them, it’s recommended that you cook them thoroughly to kill any foodborne bacteria that may be present.

Tips for Keeping Food Safe Once Power is Restored

Determine whether the food is good for consumption by checking whether the freezer is below 0 degrees F and 40 degrees F in the refrigerator. If it is, the refrigerated food is safe for consumption.

If you had not installed an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator, check the safety of the foodstuff by checking whether they give off an odor or have changed in color. However, the food is safe to cook or refreeze if it still contains ice crystals on it.

Cook and consume perishable foodstuffs with a temperature above 40 f but below 45 degrees F as soon as possible to avoid food poisoning.

Which foodstuffs should you throw away after an electric failure outage?

You should throw away the following perishable food in your refrigerator after 4 hours of losing power:

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry, fish, soy-based foods, and seafood.
  • Milk, yogurt, cream, soy milk, and other dairy products
  • Eggs and egg-based foods
  • Cut or cooked vegetables
  • Cut fruits
  • Packaged greens
  • Open vegetable and fruit juices
  • Cooked pasta or rice
  • Opened baby formula
  • Salad with creamy dressing, custard, or gravy
  • Batter or dough
  • Soft cheeses
  • Tartar sauce, mayonnaise, or horseradish
Which foodstuffs should you throw away after an electric failure outage?

You should also check whether any foodstuff has come into contact with the juices dripping from seafood, poultry, or meat and throw it out. Also, check for items with a foul smell, a different color, or texture and discard them.

Foodstuffs that should be thrown out of the freezer if the power outage extends a day or two include:

  • All the items mentioned above that have been stored in the freezer
  • Ice cream
  • Sour cream
  • Frozen pizzas, tacos containing sausage or bacon, TV breakfast or dinner sandwiches
  • Cheesecake and other custard or cream-based desserts

The only foods that are safe to eat after the recommended time frame are the ones that have ice crystals in them. Although the quality and taste of the food could be different, it is safe for consumption or refreezing.

Which food items are safe to keep after a power outage?

Not everything in your fridge needs to be tossed out when experiencing a power outage for extended periods. Some foods are too acidic for bacteria to grow on them. Hence the process of decomposition is slower for such foods during power outages. These foods include:

  • Pickles and relish
  • Ketchup
  • Olives
  • Mustard
  • Vinegar-based salad dressings
  • Jelly

Although these foods take longer to spoil than other foods, they may spoil sooner than they usually would with an electric failure. So it’s always good to check whether they are edible by sniffing them before consumption.

If you keep foodstuffs that do not require refrigeration in the fridge, they are also safe to eat. Such foods include:

  • Whole vegetables
  • Whole fruits
  • Baked items that have no cream-based icing, filing, or topping
  • Hard cheeses like romano, cheddar, parmesan, and swiss
  • Peanut butter
  • Butter and margarine
  • Herbs

You should, however, check if any of these foods have turned moldy or developed an odd smell. If they have, you should throw them out right away.

Food preservation tips for when you know a power outage might be a possibility

Here are some food safety tips to help you minimize food loss and prevent health hazards well before an emergency power outage.

  1. Ensure That Your Appliance Has A Thermometer In Both The Freezer And Main Compartment
  2. Always Have A Pack Of Ice In Your Freezer
  3. The Temperature In The Freezer Is Lower Than The Temperature In The Fridge
  4. Group Foodstuffs Together In The Freezer
  5. Invest In A Cooler
  6. Freeze Gel Packs, Make Ice Cubes In Advance
  7. Keep Non-Perishable Foods On Hand
  8. Fill Up Your Fridge And Freezer To Hold The Temperatures Within The Optimum Range

Ensure that your appliance has a thermometer in both the freezer and main compartment

You also need to check whether the temperatures in the freezer are 0° F and below 40° F in the refrigerator.
In case of a power emergency, the readings on the thermometer will enable you to determine the safety of the food.

Best Refrigerator Thermometers

Always have a pack of ice in your freezer

You can do this by freezing water containers for ice, which you could use to keep the food cold in the fridge, freezer, or cooler during a power outage.
The melting ice could also be a refreshing water source when the power is out on a sunny afternoon.

The temperature in the freezer is lower than the temperature in the fridge

So you can keep the most perishable foods such as leftover milk, poultry, and meat that you want to save for later. The cool atmosphere keeps these perishables refrigerated for longer than they could in the fridge.

group foodstuffs together in the freezer

It is also good to group foodstuffs together in the freezer as this enables them to prevent warm air from passing through them and keep the food cold for longer.

Invest in a cooler

Especially if you live in an area that is prone to power outages. Coolers will enable you to keep the foodstuffs fresh even after four hours of staying in the fridge during the blackout.

Freeze gel packs, make ice cubes in advance

Use them in a cooler or refrigerator during a power cut to keep the food cold. If you learn of a power outage beforehand, you could purchase block ice and dry ice in advance to keep everything fresh during the power cut.

keep non-perishable foods on hand

If you live in an area that experiences several power interruptions, keep plenty of non-perishable foods on hand. This prevents you from opening your freezer or refrigerator during a blackout.

Fill up your fridge and freezer to hold the temperatures within the optimum range

You could fill up the empty spaces in your freezer with perishable items from the refrigerator. Alternatively, fill the freezer with ice cubes or frozen water to help keep the food cold.