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How To Manage Food Waste in a Power Outage or Emergency Situation

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Severe weather can disrupt lives in many ways. Power outages are common and can last a few seconds to several days.


If your power is out, here’s how you can stay safe and minimize food waste.


Preparation:

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below. The freezer should be at 0°F or below.

  • Always keep frozen water and gel packs in the freezer. A freezer that is well stocked is more efficient than one that is empty. Frozen foods keep other frozen foods cold in emergency events.[1]


If You Lose Power:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Your refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it's unopened. A full freezer will keep an adequate temperature for about 48 hours if the door remains closed.[2]

  • If necessary, buy dry ice or block ice to keep your food cold in the refrigerator, if you think the power will be out for a long time.[3]

  • After 4 hours without power- move perishable food from your fridge to a cooler filled with ice (food in your freezer should still be safe).

    • Consume what you can – this is your guilt-free opportunity!

    • Compost cut fruits and cut vegetables or dispose of perishable food meat, fish, eggs, milk, and leftovers that can’t be moved to cold storage or that you can’t eat.


After Power is Restored:

  • Clean out your fridge and check your freezer. If the freezer temperature rose above 40°F you should compost or dispose of food that is thawed. When in doubt, throw it out.

  • If food is 40 °F or below, you can safely refreeze or cook thawed frozen foods that still contain ice crystals. [4]


Remember, be safe- when in doubt, throw it out and compost what you can! Wasted food stops with us!


CDC food safety graphic

[1] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020) [2] (U.S. Food & Drug, 2021) [3] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020) [4] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020)


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