How long does food last in refrigerator and freezer after a power outage?

ByABC11 News Digital WTVD logo
Thursday, August 17, 2023
How to keep food safe during a power outage
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If you lose power, follow these steps to keep your refrigerated and frozen food safe for as long as possible.

How long does food last in your refrigerator and freezer after you lose electricity?

When a storm knocks out the electricity, it's recommended that you keep the fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible.

Food can stay cold for about four hours, 48 hours in a full freezer and 24 hours in a half-full freezer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For extended outages, adding 50 pounds of dry ice should keep an 18-cubic-foot freezer that is fully stocked cold for at least two days.

Before eating refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, thoroughly cook them to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy any foodborne bacteria that may be present.

The CDC and USDA both warn you should never taste food to determine its safety and don't rely on the smell test.

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The agency says you should use the 'when in doubt, throw it out!' rule when deciding if you should keep a food item, like a condiment, or not.

Food items you should throw out

  • Perishable food that has not been refrigerated or frozen properly due to power outages

Meat, chicken and other poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more

All perishable foods in your freezer if they have thawed.

Food with an unusual odor, color, or texture.

The CDC says you can safely refreeze or cook food from the freezer if it still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated.

Can you get reimbursed for your food loss?

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you'll need to take a look at your policy or call your agent to see if food loss is covered.

A representative with Allstate Insurance says, "It's important to keep in mind that coverage limits typically apply. So, for instance, even if you have $700 worth of spoiled food, your homeowner's insurance policy may only cover up to $500. In addition, you'll usually have to pay a deductible before receiving reimbursement. Limits and deductibles can vary, so be sure to read your insurance policy or ask your agent to learn about the specifics of your coverage."

If you do decide to file a claim, make sure you document the loss before you throw away the food. Also, take pictures or videos of the food that is spoiled. If you have receipts provide those as part of your claim.

If you don't have receipts estimate the cost of the food loss.

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