By WECT Staff | August 5, 2020 at 5:48 AM EDT – Updated August 5 at 5:48 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Around 60 percent of Duke Energy customers lost power in New Hanover County following Hurricane Isaias and on Wednesday morning, thousands were still without, leaving many wondering, ‘just how long will the food in my refrigerator keep?’
While refrigerators are made with insulation in mind, unfortunately, for many of those who were without power for more than a few hours, it might be time to toss out any perishables and start over. That’s because while refrigerators do keep items cool and fresh, storing food at lower temperatures helps preserve perishable items and slows the growth of harmful bacteria on food. That is why the USDA suggests keeping things like meats, fish, and eggs at or below 40 °F.
So what is the magic number that you can keep food in your fridge if the power has gone out? Well, each appliance will probably differ to an extent, but the USDA suggests things will last just four hours in a fridge.
“Your refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours during a power outage. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers after 4 hours without power,” according to the USDA.
Things are a little better for your freezer though.
Opening and closing your fridge or freezer during a power outage will obviously be detrimental to the preservation of items inside of it, but sometimes it is unavoidable.
“Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed,” according to the USDA.
If your power has been out for more than four hours you aren’t completely out of luck, there are items that are often stored in a fridge that might not have to be thrown out if they reach a temperature above 40 °F. For example, hard cheeses like cheddar, provolone and Swiss can all be kept for more than a few hours above 40 degrees, but things like shredded cheeses and processed cheeses should be discarded. Butter and margarine can also be saved, but things like milk and cream should be tossed.
Fresh uncut fruits and veggies are also a safe bet to save; for a comprehensive list of items and whether or not you should keep it or discard it, visit the USDA website or check it out below.
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