From Food-borne Illnesses
Food safety in the event of a power
Due to on-going declarations of electrical emergencies in California,
the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health provides recommendations
on food safety to prevent food-borne illnesses at homes and businesses
in the event of a power outage.
General Precautions for Food Safety
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Keep potentially hazardous
foods, such as meat or poultry, chilled to 41°F or less.
- Do not place hot or unrefrigerated foods in the refrigerator once
the power has gone out. It will raise the temperature inside the unit.
Chill food with ice baths as needed. Discard any foods that were prepared
prior to the power outage that were not rapidly cooled.
- Keep meat and poultry items separated from other foods so that if
they begin to thaw, their juices will not drip on to other foods.
- Discard any thawed foods that has risen to room temperature and remained
there for 2 hours or more.
- Kitchen ventilation units will shut off during power outages. Be
advised that there have been reports of smoke, heat, and grease emissions
setting off alarm and fire suppression systems.
If there is advance warning of a power outage
and the outage is anticipated to last:
- 2 hours or less, no special precautions are needed except to keep
the doors to the freezer and refrigerator closed as much as possible.
- More than 4 hours, try to move foods that must be refrigerated to
the freezer, as space will allow.
- More than 6 hours, you may need to use, dry ice, block ice, or bags
of ice in order to maintain potentially hazardous foods (foods that
are labeled "keep refrigerated" or those items listed below) at 41°F.
Be especially careful when handling dry ice and do not touch it directly
with bare skin or breathe the fumes directly.
How long does food in a freezer stay good
during power outages?
- A full freezer without power will stay frozen for about 2 days.
- A half-full freezer will keep food frozen 1 day.
- If the freezer is not full, quickly group packages together so they
will retain the cold more effectively.
Evaluate All Potentially Hazardous Foods When
the Power Comes Back On
Bacteria can multiply rapidly on potentially hazardous foods that have
been at room temperature for more than 2 hours. In addition to the general
precautions on the previous page, the following tips are helpful to remember
during picnics, parties, and other events as well where foods that should
be refrigerated are left at room temperature for a prolonged period of
- Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices
and immediately discard anything with a strange color or odor.
- If potentially hazardous foods were at room temperature or above
when the power went out, they should be rapidly cooled to 41°F
using an ice bath prior to placing in any refrigerator or freezer.
- If the food has not reached 41°F within 6 hours it should be
- Thawed foods that are at 41°F or below should be used as soon
- Do not refreeze thawed foods.
When in doubt, throw it out!
Discard the following potentially hazardous foods if kept above refrigerator
temperature (41°F) for more than 2 hours:
- raw or cooked meat, poultry, or seafood
- milk/cream, yogurt, soft cheese
- cooked pasta, pasta salads
- custard, chiffon, or cheese pies
- fresh eggs, egg substitutes
- meat or cheese-topped pizza, luncheon meats
- casseroles, stew, or soups
- mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and creamy dressings
- refrigerated cookie doughs
- cream-filled pastries
Cook Foods to Minimum Temperatures to Ensure
Use a cooking thermometer to be sure that the following foods are cooked
to the minimum internal cooking temperature:
MINIMUM INTERNAL COOKING TEMPERATURE
Poultry and stuffed
Contacts for Further Information
Banner microbe: Borrelia burgdorferi,
the bacterium causing Lyme disease,
from the American
Museum of Natural History Epidemic! exhibition
Epidemic! | Exhibits