Are Your Hot Dogs Safe? How To Judge Food Safety After A Hurricane

How Safe Is Your Refrigerated Food After A Power Outage?
Your power’s been out for how long?

Whether in the wake of Superstorm Sandy or the breach of a local power line, electricity loss leads to discomfort and the need to decide what food is safe to keep and for how long. Failing to toss food appropriately can have lethal (or at least extremely uncomfortable) consequences. So when your electricity stops, how do you approach food management?

The USDA and provide some good, solid guidelines for deciding what to keep and what to discard when your frig and freezer cease to function.

To ensure the safety of refrigerated foods after a power outage:

  • Keep refrigerated meat, poultry, fish, and eggs at or below 40 degrees.
  • Keep the frig door closed to conserve the cold.
  • Food should be safe if kept at this temp for less than 4 hours.
  • Toss any perishables that sit in a 40+ degree frig for more than 2 hours.
  • Food items that can survive a bit of heat include: butter or margarine, fruits and fruit juices, and many condiments.
To keep your frozen goods safe when the electricity stops:
  • Keep freezer food at sub-zero temps.
  • Again, keep the freezer door closed to keep the chill.
  • A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours if you refrain from opening the door.
  • Thawed or partially thawed food may be safely refrozen if it is at 40 degrees or less and/or still contains ice crystals.

For those of our readers affected by Hurricane Sandy, best wishes and be safe. If you have stories to share about how you survived the storm or how you managed to keep real food present during your experience, please post a comment below!

Image Credit: methodshop via Flickr/CC

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About the Author

Hi all! I'm Mary Gerush - a recovering corporate worker bee turned good-farm-real-food advocate and writer who wants to help people understand what they're eating. I tend a tiny urban farm in Dallas, TX, and hope to scale up one day soon. Omnivore through-and-through, there's not much I love to eat more than a butter-basted grass fed steak fresh from a searing hot cast iron skillet. Follow me on , , and !
  • AEM

    Timely advice. Love the “cool” dog pic!