Power Outages Put Your Food at Risk - WSET.com - ABC13

Power Outages Put Your Food at Risk


Update Monday 11 a.m.:

Power has been out for many people for  days now. So, if you don't have power, you might be asking yourself - what do I do with the food in my refrigerator and what can I feed my family that doesn't require electricity for preparation?

Here are some tips from the Roanoke Emergency Management and Roanoke Fire-EMS:

The rule of thumb for refrigerated food is that if the power is out for less than 2 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to consume. While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep food cold for longer.

Most people have passed this point, so pretty much everything in your fridge is unsafe to eat.

  • A freezer that is half full will hold food safely for up to 24 hours.
  • A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Do not open the freezer door if you can avoid it.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. 
  • Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.


As the power outage continues, many will have to rely on ready to eat foods that don't require refrigeration or electricity to prepare. The following items are suggested when selecting emergency food supplies. You may already have many of these on hand.


  • Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, vegetables and a can opener (ex:
  • Vienna Sausages, Beanie Weenies, Spaghetti O's)
  • Protein or fruit bars , granola bars
  • Dry cereal or granola
  • Peanut butter (ex: peanut butter sandwiches, peanut butter crackers)
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Crackers
  • Canned juices
  • Non-perishable pasteurized milk
  • High energy foods
  • Vitamins
  • Food for infants
  • Comfort/stress foods (chips, cookies)


Remember to drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated.

Symptoms of food poisoning depend on the type of contaminant and the amount eaten. The symptoms can develop rapidly, within 30 minutes, or slowly, worsening over days to weeks. Most of the common contaminants cause:


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Fever


Usually food poisoning is not serious, and the illness runs its course in 24-48 hours. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.


With extended outages it's important to be safe with the food in your refrigerator.

The FDA says your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it's unopened. 

A FULL freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours. If it is only half full, it's about 24 hours.

Once your power comes back on, if you have a thermometer in your freezer and the temperature reads 40 degrees or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.

If you don't have a thermometer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.

The FDA says you should throw out any perishable food if your power has been out for more than four hours.  You could get very sick if you eat it even if you thoroughly cook it.

"If you have a power outage, keep that refrigerator closed as much as you can so the frozen food will stay good for about three days," said Beverly Gaydas, Disaster Services Manager for the American Red Cross.

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