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Is my food safe to eat after a power outage?

What's safe, what you should toss
Is my food safe to eat after a power outage?
Posted at 12:11 PM, Jun 14, 2022

CINCINNATI -- When the power goes out, even a stocked kitchen can begin to feel a little barren. Without appliances, some foods can't be eaten.

After the power is restored, though, some of that food may no longer be safe to eat.

Before you pitch everything in your fridge and freezer, check out these tips from the CDC and the Cincinnati Health Department:

  • First and foremost, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors shut. If you limit the number of time that cold air escapes the fridge, you'll probably be able to keep it longer.
  • Your food in the refrigerator is more at-risk to spoil than freezer food.
  • Perishable food in the fridge -- like milk, eggs, uncooked meats and cooked vegetables -- will be safe for 4-6 hours, according to the CDC. The Cincinnati Health Department says that you should worry once perishable foods have been kept at 41 degrees or warmer; 41 to 140 degrees is the "danger zone" for thawed, perishable foods.
  • Frozen foods, however, can stay safe for up to 48 hours in a closed, full freezer (a half-full freezer will keep food safe for 24 hours), the CDC says. If the foods contain ice crystals, they can be refrozen or cooked. The health department suggests adding "bags of ice or dry ice to the freezer if it appears the power will be off for an extended time."
  • If the color, odor or texture of a food is suspect, throw it out. Or, as the CDC and health department say, "When in doubt, throw it out."
  • Some foods may be sub-par after being stored at room temperature, but they will not be dangerous to eat. Butter or margarine, cheeses, condiments (excluding mayonnaise), vinegar-based salad dressings, fresh, uncut fruits, raw vegetables, pastries and fruit juices all fall into this category.

As a reminder, be sure to call Duke Energy to report your power outage so that they know where to restore power.

Here's a list of phone numbers and other helpful tips to stay safe when the power goes out.

If flooding also affects your area, the CDC warns people against consuming drinking water that may be unsafe.

  • Your city or county may issue a boil water advisory, which means tap water should be boiled before drinking or using to wash dishes, cook, make ice or brush teeth. Bathing with that water, however, is fine (unless otherwise noted).
  • Bottled water is still safe to drink during a flood or water advisory.
Duke Energy's Sally Thelen gives an update on power restorations across the Tri-State