Power went out, how long is food "safe"

Lost power last night, just came back home and it was on - but I was out since early morning so not sure how long it’s been back on (and so how long out). I estimate it was out at least 11-12 hrs, possibly as much as 16+. I only opened fridge and freezer once each (quickly) while it was out last night. I have some milk which I’m tossing for sure and I know some stuff is still safe like mustard, ketchup etc. But other stuff I’m not so sure - hate to waste food (for $ and other reasons) but don’t want to get too cute about it and maybe eat something I shouldn’t.

And yes I did some internet searching but the answers were a bit mixed/vague and again not quite sure when the power went out, so…

Some things i’m wondering about:

cheese (the individually wrapped for sandwiches stuff)
other condiments eg BBQ sauce, steak sauce, mayo

ice cream
french fries

I learned that you can’t always go by “looks/smells OK” as I used to think was a good rule of thumb. But some sites I think erred way on the side of caution - for ex. one said in normal conditions, hot dogs once opened should be eaten within 4-5 days, and I’ve had hot dogs for weeks many times and they were fine (at least I never got sick on them and they seemed fine). ? Experiences/etc others have had?

A few years back I lost power for 5 days after a bad storm (actually two in three days) similar to the recent one in the Mid-Atlantic and while we threw out most of the food afterwards, except for things like you said (ketchup, etc), I ate things like milk and vegetables and other stuff that didn’t have to be cooked during this period, except for barbecued meat; the opened milk went bad after about 3 days but an unopened container was still good. Stuff like ice cream, well, that was a good excuse to eat a lot of ice cream (an entire container over a couple days, not that it really was ice cream after a couple days, I mixed it with milk and drank it; otherwise, we ate from McDonalds, etc, although we don’t normally do so).

if freezer stuff still has ice crystals on the outside then it can be refrozen without loss. refreezing otherwise may leave some texture problems. though 16 hours without power shouldn’t bother a freezer.

some places say that a frig above 40F for 2 hours is throw out. i think that way too cautious. whatever spoils easily in a picnic cooler would be the type of stuff to throw out. foods that are salted and dry like cheese are OK.

Did the ice cubes in your freezer melt? If they did I would probably dump the food. But I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to food handling.

The ice cubs partially melted, but this thing has a huge container for those as it has the dispenser for them in the door. Part of the problem here is I don’t know quite how long it was out or the temps at the time it started to get cold again. I do know that when I got him and checked, the fridge was at low 50s and the freezer low 20s. The ice cream was basically like a milk shake. Oh I should add there wasn’t much in the freezer, which doesn’t help.

I wouldn’t treat anything as bad if the power was off for less than 24 hours. A refrigerator should hold its temperature pretty well - certainly it should hold food as well as the coolers I take food camping in, and that food is safe to eat after a week.

To some extent, you might want to do a cost-benefit analysis. If you have very young or old people in the household, or those with immune or other medical issues, tossing out food may be better than taking a risk.

Can’t agree w/the cooler analogy. You have those packed with ice/gel packs I assume, where this stuff is just in open space (my fridge is not even 1/2 full either).

I’m tossing the mayo and ice cream and probably the re-freezing veggies. Dammit I just bought a lot of this stuff too. POS power lines!

Your mayo should be fine. Commercial mayo is not exactly a hospitable environment for bacteria, unless it’s been contaminated with other foodstuffs. I’d worry more about the barbecue, to be honest, but 12-16 hours in a fridge that hasn’t been opened (or just opened once, quickly) I probably wouldn’t even think twice about. Cheese is not going to be a problem at all, either. I mean, cheese is a method of preserving milk, more or less, isn’t it?

lunchmeat - should be OK. If you want to be real cautious, cook it before eating.
cheese (the individually wrapped for sandwiches stuff) - it’s OK. Cheese is stored in big wheels while being made, not in refrigerators. Cheese is a pre-refrigerators preservation method.
BBQ - this may be risky, depending on how long power was off. Most BBQ contains a lot of sugar in the sause, which bacteria like.
other condiments eg BBQ sauce, steak sauce, mayo - most should be OK. Had the mayo been opened and used? Dipping utensils back into the mayo jar can leave tiny particles of other food in the mayo – those may be more likely to start spoilage than the mayo itself.

ice cream - no problem. Except that if it thawed & re-froze, it will be more crystallized, so the taste & texture will be poorer.
steak - OK: should not have thawed in that time. And meats can be thawed & refrozen without a risk to safety, just taste.
veggies - should be OK, but texture might be worse. Maybe use them in soup or stew.
french fries - OK, might get mushy. But frozen french fries are awful anyway, so who’d notice?

Generally, most foods should be safe for this short a time.

PS: can’t you tell how long the power was off by looking at a clock and seeing how many hours it is behind? Good reason for keeping at least one analog, plug-in clock in the house!

I know this is too late to help with your current dilemma, but situations like yours are why I keep the fridge full. When there’s extra space, I fill clean, empty milk jugs, juice bottles, and such with water and put them in the refrigerator or freezer. That way (a) the whole thing works more efficiently, (b) food stays cold/safe longer if we lose power, and © we have a modest supply of water on hand if we’re without service for some reason. ( Which happened a couple of months ago b/c Tony and I each thought the other had paid the bill. Oops! Nothing like waking up in a house with four kids, three dogs, and no water!)

Yep I used to do that and just forgot about it recently for various reasons (moving etc). Definitely starting it back up, already have a 1G jug of water in the freezer.

I admit I largely went back to my “looks\smells OK” largely. I didn’t chance the ice cream; even if safe, melted/refrozen ice cream just isn’t cutting it. That and the thawed frozen veggies were mostly what I pitched…coulda been worse for sure.

Anyway thx for the replies. Anyone else in mid-Atlantic who got zapped??

You can use it to make milk shakes or mqlts. After running it through the blender with milk and flavorings, you generally won’t notice that it was once melted & refrozen.

No blender, no interest, too much work. Thx anyway. :slight_smile: