Food and Water Safety
Prepare food without power:
- When fuel is limited, choose food that cooks quickly
or no-cook food. Many canned foods can be eaten
cold. Check the label.
- Prepare only the food you need for one meal and
discard or share perishable leftovers.
- Grill food outdoors or wrap it in foil and cook it in a fireplace. Never use charcoal for
indoor fires, however, as the carbon monoxide is dangerous.
- A propane or butane camp stove may be used to cook food, but use only outside
the house. Propane and butane fires are difficult to extinguish and a fire could get
quickly out of hand.
- Fondue pots or chafing dishes can be used inside as long as the fuel is approved
for indoor use.
Keep food cold during power outages:
- Food will stay chilled in a refrigerator without power for about 4 hours. To maintain
temperature, keep door closed as much as possible.
- To keep refrigerator temperatures cool longer, place bags of regular ice on the
upper shelves and put pans on the lower shelves to catch melting ice. The more
ice you use, the longer the temperature will stay cool.
- A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full)
and the door is kept closed.
- Food can be safely refrozen if it still has ice crystals or is at 40°F or below when
checked with a food thermometer.
Check food when the power comes back on:
Once your freezer and refrigerator are working, evaluate the safety of the affected
food. For frozen food, consider the type of food and the extent of thawing. For
refrigerated food, consider the temperature inside the refrigerator before the return
of power, the type of food and the length of time the foods have been stored above
40°F. Never taste food to determine its safety!
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
- Discard these foods if the temperature is above 40°F for more than 2 hours:
- Milk, cream, yogurt soft cheese
- Lunch meats/hot dogs
- Casseroles, stew or soups
- Raw or cooked meat, poultry, fish, seafood
- Eggs, fresh or hard-boiled
- Cooked pasta, pasta salads
- Mayonnaise (opened)
- Follow these guidelines for other foods:
- Fruit juices — Usually will be safe unrefrigerated until power returns, but
discard if cloudy, moldy or fermented.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables — Usually safe unrefrigerated until power returns,
but discard if mold, yeasty odor or slimy texture develops.
- Hard cheeses, butter, margarine — Usually safe unrefrigerated if
well-wrapped, but discard if mold or rancid odor develops.
- Opened containers of jelly, jam, mustard, ketchup, pickles and olives —
Safe unrefrigerated until power returns.
Food Safety Hotlines
USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline
1-800-256-7072 (TDD/TTY) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
FDA’s Food Safety Information and Seafood Hotline
1-800-FDA-4010 or 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).
MN Foodborne Illness Hotline
Make certain water is safe:
- City water users are notified if their water supply is contaminated.
- If you have a private well and if floodwater came within 50 feet of the well or it
was under water assume your water supply is unsafe. Contact your local health
department for detailed instruction on disinfecting and testing your well.
How to purify water for immediate use:
- Use bottled water or purify all water before drinking,
preparing food, brushing teeth, or washing dishes, unless
you are absolutely certain your water supply has
not been contaminated.
- If water contains sediment or floating material, strain
it through a cloth before purifying it.
- If you have access to heat or power, boil water at a
hard boil for 1 minute. Cool. Store in clean containers
- If there is no access to heat or power, treat with chemicals (chlorine or water
- Bleach —Regular, unscented, liquid household bleach containing 5.25 %
sodium hypochlorite—add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) for each gallon of
water. Stir well and let stand for 30 minutes before use. Store disinfected water in
clean containers with cover.
- Water purification tablets may be used to purify water. Purchase at drug stores,
or camping and sporting goods stores. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s
instructions. Purification tablets are for emergency use only, not everyday
Full PDF Version (344 K PDF)
See the related program: Extreme Weather Flood & Water.
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