5/14/2014 06:10 PM PDT

Avoid Foodborne Illness During Power Outages

With potential power outages facing San Diego County as a result of current fires, the County Department of Environmental Health offers the following food safety tips to prevent food-borne illness at both homes and businesses.


  •          Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. Keep potentially hazardous foods, such as meat or poultry, chilled to 41°F or less.
  •          Do not place hot or unrefrigerated foods in the refrigerator once the power has gone out. It will raise the temperature inside the unit. Chill food with ice baths as needed. Any foods that were prepared prior to the power outage that were not rapidly cooled should be discarded.
  •          If the freezer is not full, group packages together so they will retain the cold more effectively. Without power, a full freezer will keep everything frozen for about 2 days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen 1 day.
  •          If you have advance warning of a power outage and if the outage is anticipated to last more than 4 hours move foods that must be refrigerated to the freezer.  
  •          If necessary, use block ice or bagged ice for supplemental cooling.
  •          Keep meat and poultry items separated from other foods so if they begin to thaw, their juices will not drip onto other foods.
  •          Discard any thawed food that has risen to room temperature and remained there for four (4) hours or more.
  •          Some businesses may need to arrange for temporary refrigerated storage units during a prolonged power outage. (e.g., mobile units/trailers).
  •          Kitchen ventilation units will shut off during power outages. Be advised there have been reports of smoke, heat and grease emissions setting off alarm and fire suppression systems.

            When in doubt, throw it out!

When the power comes back on, all potentially hazardous foods must be evaluated for proper temperatures. Bacteria can multiply rapidly on potentially hazardous foods that have been at room temperature for more than 4 hours. Thawed foods that are at 41°F or below should be used as soon as possible. Do not refreeze thawed foods.

For more information on food handling, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555, weekdays, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (EST) or www.usda.gov

Permitted food facilities should contact the Food and Housing Division at (858) 505-6900 or fhdutyeh@sdcounty.ca.gov if the power outage lasts more than two hours.