Script: Power Outage in the Freezer
Welcome to USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service
Food Safety at home podcast series. These podcasts were
designed with you in mind - the consumer - who purchases and
prepares meat, poultry and processed processed
egg products for your family and friends.
Each episode will bring you a different food safety topic ranging
from safe storage, handling, and preparation of meat, poultry
and processed egg products to the importance of keeping foods
safe during a power outage.
So sit back, turn up the volume and listen in.
Welcome to “Food Safety at Home.” This is Faye Smith from the Food Safety and
Inspection Service. I’m your host for this segment. With me today is Kathy Bernard
from the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline. Kathy will discuss what you need to know when
your freezer has a power outage.
Hello, Kathy. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m pleased to be here.
Whether a power outage occurs from natural causes, equipment failure, or human error,
we have questions about safety of food that has been stored in our freezer.
Each year, thousands of people call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline with their
questions. Kathy, what is the first thing you should do when you have a power outage?
First of all, don't panic. Your food could still be safe.
Keep an appliance thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer at all times. When the
power is out, an appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the
refrigerator and freezer no matter how long the power has been out. The temperature of
the freezer should read 0 °F or lower.
If you’re not sure a particular food is cold enough, take its temperature with a
digital, dial, or instant-read food thermometer.
What if I don't have a thermometer handy? How do I make sure my food is safe?
Check the condition of the food. If it’s partly frozen, still has ice crystals, or is
cold as if it were in a refrigerator at 40 °F, then it’s safe.
What do I do if the food is warm?
Discard any food that you know has been warmer than 40 °F for more than 2
hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. Also discard
refrigerated perishables such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs,
leftovers, and deli items after 4 hours without power. When in Doubt, Throw It
If some of the food in my freezer has started to thaw or
has thawed by the time the power returns, is it safe?
You’ll have to evaluate each item separately. If an appliance thermometer was kept in
the freezer, read the temperature when the power comes back on. If it reads 40 °F or
below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food as I
described earlier to determine its safety. Don't rely on appearance or odor.
Is it safe to refreeze the food?
If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze.
Keep the freezer door closed as much as possible.
What are some safeguards that I can put into place for future power outages?
Keep an appliance thermometer in both the freezer and the refrigerator.
Remember, food will stay frozen for 36-48 hours in a fully loaded freezer. A
half-full freezer will generally keep food frozen for 24 hours. So, again, keep the
- Plan ahead about how you can keep foods cold. Buy some freeze-pak inserts and
keep them frozen.
- Buy a cooler. Freeze water in plastic jugs or containers or store bags of ice.
- Know where you can buy dry ice and block ice.
- Keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed; open them only when absolutely
- If you have advance notice of a power outage, fill up your freezer by filling
plastic jugs, containers, and bottles with water and freezing them.
Learn more about keeping food safe during a power outage by visiting the FSIS Web site
at www.fsis.usda.gov. That’s www.fsis.usda.gov.
Or visit us online for assistance from our virtual representative “Ask Karen” at
Consumers may also call our toll-free USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.
That’s it for this week. We’ve been talking to Kathy Bernard from the USDA Meat and
Poultry Hotline. I’m Faye Smith and I would like to thank you for joining us for this
episode of “Food Safety at Home.” And remember, “Be Food Safe.”
Well, that’s all for this time. Thanks for joining us today
for another episode of food safety at home!
For answers to your food safety questions call USDA's toll-free
meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-mphotline. That’s 1-888-674-6854.
You can also get answers to food safety questions online from
our virtual representative "ask karen" at www.askkaren.gov .
Let us know what you think of this podcast by sending your
Thanks for tuning in.