Hurricane Season: Food Safety when the Power is Back

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This is the third installment in a series on severe weather by Extension Master Food Volunteer, Nancy Oliver.

Open refrigerator door in a dark kitchen

If the power has been out for longer than four hours, place unsafe food in heavy-duty garbage bags to dispose of it. Then, put the bag(s) in a trash container or take the bags directly to a landfill.

As long as your food has remained below 41°F, it may be refrozen … although the quality of it might decrease. Use your tip-sensitive thermometer to verify this number.

Here’s what you can safely keep:


Butter, margarine Processed cheeses
Hard cheeses: cheddar, Colby, Parmesan (including grated in jar/can), provolone, Romano (including grated in jar/can), Swiss Unopened, commercially processed yogurt

Vegetables, fruits:

Fresh mushrooms
Raw vegetables, but not cut tomatoes, greens
Fresh fruits, dried/candied fruits, coconut, dates, raisins
Herbs, spices Opened fruit juices, except pear

Baked goods, pies, pastries:

Bagels, pancakes, waffles
Bread, rolls, cakes (without cream or custard filling), muffins, quick breads, tortillas
Fruit pies

Jams, spreads, and sauces:

Jam, jelly, marmalade Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin, taco
Ketchup, mustard, relish, olives, pickles Opened vinegar-based dressings

Here’s what needs to go:

Toss anything else that has been at 41 degrees Fahrenheit (or higher) for more than 4 hours. As the old saying goes, “when in doubt, throw it out.”

Poultry, meat, seafood

Raw, thawing/leftover cooked meat, poultry,

fish, or seafood

Salads made from tuna, shrimp, chicken, eggs, or meat

Meat substitutes

Lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef

Gravy, stuffing, broth

Dairy products

Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk

Opened baby formula

Shredded cheeses

Low-fat cheeses

Soft cheese: bleu/blue, gorgonzola, brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, muenster, queso blanco, queso fresco


Ice cream, yogurt, eggnog Plant-based milk alternatives

Vegetables, fruits

Pre-cut/pre-washed/packaged leafy greens Cooked potatoes/potato dishes
Cooked vegetables/tofu Commercial garlic in oil
Opened vegetable juice Cut tomatoes


Fresh eggs, hard-boiled eggs in shell

Egg dishes, egg products

Custards and puddings

Grains, pasta, baked goods, pastries, pies

Cooked rice, pasta, potatoes Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, doughs
Pasta salads with mayo or vinaigrette Quiche
Fresh pasta Pies: cheese-filled/chiffon/custard
Cheesecake Cream-filled pastries

 Sauces, spreads, jams

Opened mayo, tartar sauce, horseradish

(if above 50 degrees F for more than 8 hours)

Opened cream-based dressings
Opened spaghetti sauce
Fish, oyster sauces


Leftovers, such as casseroles, soups, stews

What about the deep freeze?
Open freezer with a pint of ice cream

In the next and final installment of our severe weather series, we’ll talk about baby food safety: how to prepare for a power outage and what to do if one occurs.