Adair P. Hoover,
Home & Garden Information Center
February is prime time for power outages in South Carolina. Ice, snow and heavy winds can arise and create perfect conditions for power outages. Losing power is a hassle and one of the things we need to immediately consider is the safety of stored food.
One of the fundamentals of food safety is temperature. For many perishable foods, freezing and refrigeration prolong the length of time that they will retain acceptable quality and safety. We rely on our refrigerators and freezers for safe storage and when power is lost we are reminded of how much we depend on them.
When power outages occur it is best to have a food safety plan in place. Being proactive can help you reduce waste and give you confidence when deciding whether foods are safe to eat. An appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer is a great way to be sure that foods remain at safe temperatures. Keep it in the refrigerator and freezer at all times to verify that food is being stored at safe temperatures (34 to 40 °F for the refrigerator; 0 °F or below for the freezer).
In preparation for a power outage:
When you lose power:
4 hours or less:
If the power is out for 4 hours or less, refrigerated and frozen foods should be safe as long as the refrigerator or freezer doors remain closed. Every time you open them, cold air escapes, causing the foods inside to warm. When power returns, check temperatures and discard any perishable food that has been above 40 °F for two hours or more and any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
More than 6 hours:
If a power outage lasts for more than 6 hours some safety precautions should be taken.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.