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Assessing Frozen Food Safety After a Power Outage

Posted on February 18 2022

Assessing Frozen Food Storage After a Power Outage


One of the first things that people think about following a power outage is whether that fully stocked freezer of meat is still safe to eat. While much of the food in a refrigerator must be discarded after losing power, the same is not true of frozen foods. Here are some rules to follow when deciding which freezer foods to toss and which to keep.


The 48 Hour Rule

Before you start panicking the minute power goes out, you should learn the 48 hour rule. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, freezers that are completely full will keep foods safely frozen for 48 hours. If your freezer is only half full of food, the safe period is reduced to 24 hours. These are general guidelines and apply only if you don't open the door, thus allowing cold air to escape.


Determine the Freezer Temperature

The easiest place to start is by sticking a food thermometer inside the freezer. Leave the thermometer inside for five minutes and read the temperature. Note that you must do this quickly if the power comes back on, as the freezer will immediately begin refreezing the food to a lower temperature. As long as the temperature reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, everything in the freezer is still safe to consume.

If you don't have a food grade thermometer, there are other ways to determine the safety of food. Start by looking for ice crystals that are still on the inside or outside of packages and bags. If the foods still have ice on them, they are safe to eat.


Beware of Items Stored in the Door

If your freezer has door storage, it's possible that the food located there may be below the optimal temperature. Insert a food thermometer into these items to ensure they are all below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If they are even one degree above it, throw the foods out to be safe.


Discard Food That Doesn't Look Right

Some foods, such as ice cream, may thaw faster than others, leaving them a soft soupy mess. It's best to discard these items, as the quality will suffer once it is refrozen. Also look for any bags or boxes that are leaking. Throw them out, as the juices may contaminate the other foods in the freezer. Hopefully you won't have many since most will be vacuum sealed. If a container of raw meat leaks juice, discard every food item underneath it to avoid accidental contamination.


You may also notice puddles of water in the door or the bottom of the fridge caused by melting ice from the ice maker. Ice cubes melt faster than other frozen items, so there's no need to worry. You may want to empty the ice bin, however, to prevent the melted water from freezing solid inside of it.


While throwing away food is never desirable, it's better to be safe than to risk your family's health. By following these freezer safety guidelines, you may find that your freezer foods fared pretty well during the power outage.


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