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Food safety tips when the power goes out

Unplanned power outages can be a pain, but besides not being able to binge your favourite show – what about all the food in your fridge and freezer?

February 27, 2024

We do tend to take some things for granted – like refrigeration that keeps our food safe to eat.

Here are some tips to stay food safe in the event of a power outage:

  • Record the time the power went out. This helps you track how long food has been without proper refrigeration.

  • If the outage lasts more than 4 hours, food safety becomes a concern. Without power, your fridge can't keep food cold, and that's when bacteria can start to grow.

For food in the fridge:

  • Keep the door shut. Your fridge will keep food safe for about 2 hours if you don't open it (not even for a peek!).

  • After 2 hours: If you can't use an alternative cold storage (like a cooler with ice) you'll need to decide what to do with perishable items like meat, dairy, and prepared meals.

  • Use a fridge thermometer to check the temperature. If it goes above 5°C for more than 2 hours, it's time to either eat the food immediately or throw it out.

  • No thermometer? If it's been over 2 hours and you can't cool the food elsewhere, it's safer to throw it out.

For food in the freezer:

  • Keep the door closed to make the cold last longer. A full freezer can keep food frozen for up to 48 hours; if it’s half-full, for about 24 hours.

  • Partly defrosted food that's still cold (5°C or below) can be refrozen, but its quality might not be the same.

The 4-hour/2-hour rule:

  • Less than 2 hours at unsafe temperatures (between 5°C and 60°C): You can either refrigerate it again or eat it.

  • 2 to 4 hours: Eat it right away.

  • More than 4 hours: Throw it out.

Preparing for power outages:

  • If it’s a planned power outage, you’ll have time to do a few things to help.

  • Adjust your appliances: Set your fridge and freezer to their coldest settings to buy yourself some extra time.

  • Without power, food will last longer in the freezer, so freeze as much as you can.

  • You can also add some frozen bottles of water to your fridge and freezer to try and keep everything cold and fresh.


Don't open the fridge or freezer unless you absolutely need to. Every time you do, you let in warm air and make the situation worse.

And when the power comes back on, keep your fridge cool with these handy tips.

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