Refrigerated food and power outages: When to save and when to throw out

Refrigerated food and power outages: When to save and when to throw out
Posted at 6:28 AM, Sep 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-13 02:24:41-04

Is food in the refrigerator safe during a power outage? As long as the power is out no more than 4 hours, it should be safe. Make sure you keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. 

Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.

Note: Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

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You will have to evaluate each item separately. Use this chart as a guide from

MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes 

DISCARD: Thawing meat or poultry

DISCARD: Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad

DISCARD: Gravy, stuffing, broth

DISCARD: Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef

DISCARD: Pizza – with any topping

DISCARD: Canned hams labeled "Keep Refrigerated"

DISCARD: Canned meats and fish, opened

DISCARD: Casseroles, soups, stews


CHEESE - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco

SAFE: Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano

SAFE: Processed Cheeses

DISCARD: Shredded Cheeses

DISCARD: Low-fat Cheeses

SAFE: Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)


DAIRY - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk

SAFE: Butter, margarine

DISCARD: Baby formula, opened


EGGS - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products

DISCARD: Custards and puddings, quiche


FRUITS - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Fresh fruits, cut

SAFE: Fruit juices, opened

SAFE: Canned fruits, opened

SAFE: Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, dates


SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs: Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish

SAFE: Peanut butter

SAFE: Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles

SAFE: Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces

DISCARD: Fish sauces, oyster sauce

SAFE: Opened vinegar-based dressings

DISCARD: Opened creamy-based dressings

DISCARD: Spaghetti sauce, opened jar


BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES, PASTA, GRAINS - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

SAFE: Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas

DISCARD: Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough

DISCARD: Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes

DISCARD: Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette

DISCARD: Fresh pasta

DISCARD: Cheesecake

SAFE: Breakfast foods –waffles, pancakes, bagels


PIES, PASTRY - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

DISCARD: Pastries, cream filled

DISCARD: Pies – custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche

SAFE: Pies, fruit


VEGETABLES - Held above 40 °F for over 2 hours

SAFE: Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices

DISCARD: Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged

SAFE: Vegetables, raw

DISCARD: Vegetables, cooked; tofu

DISCARD: Baked potatoes

DISCARD: Commercial garlic in oil

DISCARD: Potato salad

DISCARD: Vegetables, cooked; tofu

DISCARD: Casseroles, soups, stews