What Food Needs to be Thrown Away after a Power Failure

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) advises that in the event of a power failure, an unopened fridge will only keep food cold for about four hours. So here are some guidelines to follow if you have been out of power for longer than that.

What do you need to get rid of?

Any food that spoils quickly and has been stored above 4 C for two or more hours should be tossed. This includes:

  • raw, thawing and leftover meat, poultry and seafood — including processed meat products such as hot dogs, sausages and cold cuts
  • any canned meat or seafood that has been opened
  • leftover pizza with meat toppings
  • any items that have come in contact with raw meat juices
  • fresh eggs, hard-boiled eggs in shell, egg products and dishes
  • salads containing meat, chicken, egg or seafood, as well as potato salad and pasta salads containing mayonnaise or vinaigrette
  • casseroles, soups and stews
  • gravy, stuffing and broth
  • milk (dairy and soy), cream, yogurt, sour cream and cream-filled pastries
  • baby formula
  • soft cheeses like brie, Edam, Camembert, cottage cheese and cream cheese, shredded cheese
  • cut fresh fruits, pre-cut and pre-washed packaged greens, opened vegetable juice, cooked vegetables (including potatoes) and tofu
  • leftover cooked pasta and rice, fresh pasta and open containers of pasta sauce
  • opened fish sauce and oysters sauce (but Worcestershire, soy, hoisin and barbecue sauces should be fine)
  • opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish that has been left above 10 C for eight hours or longer

(Source: CFIA and Foodsafety.gov)

What to do about food in your freezer

If you have a fully packed chest freezer or fully packed freezer compartment of your refrigerator, your food may stay frozen for up to 48 hours, according to the CFIA, but if it is only half full or is an upright, expect your food to have thawed within 24 hours.

If you bought bags of ice within 2 hours of the power going out, you may have been able to keep the food at a safe temperature (below –  4 C).

If you had thawed food in your fridge that still feels “refrigerator cold” or is partially frozen, it can be cooked and eaten safely.

What food is safe to keep if the power goes out?

The good news is that some items you normally keep in your fridge will last longer if the power goes out.

Those items include:

  • ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles and olives
  • peanut butter and jam
  • butter and margarine
  • bread, rolls, tortillas, cakes and muffins (but throw out cookie, biscuit and roll dough)
  • fruit pies (but toss out custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies, quiche and cheesecake)
  • raw fruits and vegetables, including fresh mushrooms
  • opened canned fruits and fruit juices
  • grated parmesan or Romano (or combined) cheese in a can or jar
  • hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, Colby and provolone
  • processed cheeses
  • opened vinegar-based dressings (but, get rid of opened creamy dressings)

(Source: Foodsafety.gov)

What do you do if you’re unsure about they safety of your food?

When in doubt, throw it out.

Just because you can’t see or smell any spoilage doesn’t mean the food in question is safe to eat. No food, regardless how costly is worth risking getting food poisoning over.

Disinfecting your fridge / freezer

Once you’ve discarded everything that needs to be thrown out, be sure to disinfect the inside of the fridge with a mild bleach solution and wash any soiled cloths used in the clean-up process in hot soapy water, with a bit of bleach. This will prevent contaminating other surfaces or food with the bacteria from the spoiled food.  Wearing gloves while doing this is also a good idea.  If you don’t have any available, be sure to wash your hands well with hot soapy water long enough to sing “row row row your boat” or “Mary had a little lamb”.

While you may have lost costly food items and had the inconvenience of having no power for an extended period of time, following these simple steps will help minimize the risk of getting ill or making someone else ill from spoiled food.


(Source: Nick Logan, Global News)