How Long Will Food Last In The Fridge If You Lost Power?

Here are guidelines from the USDA regarding the safety of food in a refrigerator without power.

With Hurricane Sandy predicted to hit us hard today, losing power is a threat. 

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service prepared a fact sheet for keeping food safe during an emergency, including losing power.

The USDA says to "keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature."

But, the refrigerator will only keep food safely cold for about four hours if unopened during a power outage, according to the USDA. A full freezer will hold the temperature for about 48 hours if full (24 hours of half full), the USDA says.

The USDA emphasizes "never to taste food to determine its safety" and says that you should "evaluate each item separately."

Generally, if the temperature in the thermometer in the freezer reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the food is safe and can be refrozen, according to the USDA. The USDA suggests obtaining dry or block ice to help keep refrigerated or frozen food cold if the power will be out for an extended period of time.

For more details and for a list of "when to save and when to throw it out" for refrigerated and frozen food items, click on this link:


Joe Sousa. October 29, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Fill empty plastic bowls with water and freeze them now. Fill every open space with as many as possible. The ice will keep the fridge cold for days. Use some of the ice for the refrigerator and the rest for the freezer if the power goes out.
English first October 29, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Thanks for that information. We didn't know that.
Renee Cwiek October 29, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Great idea Joe!
DR October 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Don't forget to leave room for expansion when freezing water.
nan October 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM
This would be a good article to repost post-storm.
Patrick P October 29, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Fill your bathtub up with water. In the event of no power the pressure in water pipes can also be weakened and you may not be able to flush toilets properly. Having that bathtub full of water allows you to perform a manual flush if needed.
Mike October 29, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Thanks for the tip. Down in DC and I've got two empty 2-liter bottles I can fill. At least I won't lose my ice cream :)
A October 29, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I use ziplock freezer bags. I fill them half way with water and fill up my freezer when I am worried about losing power.
Margiere Waters October 30, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Another option that works well for me is to completely gorge yourself so if the power goes out you can survive for a few days without food!
Rosemary Miner November 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
Thanks for this info. I used the link to help me decide what to throw away after the power went out. Particularly helpful was the advice that you can't just taste food to determine its safety (my husband's rule!).
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) November 01, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Glad it helped, Rose! Is your power back on?
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