Food Safety During Power Outages

When power goes out, especially for long periods of time, it’s important to know when and how to use perishable foods. The best way to know if food is safe to keep or cook is to use a food thermometer to determine temperature of foods. 

If your food service facility
loses power, stop serving
food and close. Call the
Hamilton County Public
Health Environmental
Health Division at


Food in the freezer

  • Keep the door closed. Opening the door lets warm air in and allows food to thaw quicker.
  • If food reaches temperatures above 32º F, there is a 4 hour window to use the food. Cook it and eat it immediately, or throw it out. Do NOT refreeze it.
  • Any food completely thawed and not cooked should NOT be refrozen. Throw it away.
  • Frozen food can last up to two days if freezer is full; it can last up to a day when freezer is half full.


Food in the refrigerator

  • Keep the door closed. Opening the door lets warm air in and allows food to thaw quicker.
  • If food reaches temperatures above 41º F, throw it out. Do not freeze it or re-refrigerate after power is restored.
  • Throw out all ground meat. As a processed food, it can allow bacteria to grow much faster than whole meats.

If you don’t own a thermometer, the best method for keeping foods cold is to keep the freezer(s) and refrigerator door closed at all times. To be safe, if you can’t determine the temperature of perishable foods, throw out all completely thawed food to prevent foodborne illness. Once power returns, go to the local hardware or grocery store and buy a thermometer.



Check your homeowner’s insurance to see if lost food costs are covered in your policy. You may need to inventory discarded items.



For more information, call the Environmental Health Division at 513.946.7847.


Download a printable version of this fact sheet here.


250 William Howard Taft Road
2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45219
Phone 513.946.7800 Fax 513.946.7890