Give Now

Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

How To Keep Your Food Safe In A Blackout

No power? Here are some tips to avoid foodborne illness.


Fridge Is Off – What Now?

The Northeast is still reeling from the blizzard that swept through the region late last week. As of Sunday, crews were still hard at work clearing roads, and some 350,000 homes and businesses remained without power. Because virtually all Americans rely heavily on electric food refrigeration, the latter means an elevated risk in contracting foodborne illness.

In response to the storm, the USDA has released a list of guidelines for protecting perishable items — and the citizens who consume them — when natural disasters turn out the lights.


Buy two thermometers. Put one in the fridge and one in freezer to keep track of the temperature during power outages. If an outage is expected, refrigerators should be cooled preemptively to 40 degrees F and freezers to 0 degrees F.

Always keep some water frozen in spare containers. If there is extra ice in your refrigerator and freezer, food will stay colder for a longer. Also, be sure to freeze foods like milk, leftovers and meats.

Once the power goes out, open refrigerator doors only when necessary. This will minimize heat transfer, buying time for your electric provider to reestablish service.

If it looks like you’re going to be in the dark for a number of days, buy dry or block ice. Both types of ice will help keep your food cool. Of course, if it’s really cold outside, you could also move items to your front porch.

When in doubt, throw it out! True to their name, perishable foods will spoil if they aren’t kept at the right temperature. After 4 hours without power, throw these foods away. Another warning: Do not use your taste buds to determine whether or not something is safe to eat!

Read more:

  • Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA)
  • Northeast slowly recovering from blizzard (Associated Press)
Caroline Hoven

Caroline Hoven is studying journalism at Indiana University. She has a passion for learning how to cook.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Earth Eats:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Earth Eats

Search Earth Eats

Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Flickr

Harvest Public Media