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Keeping or throwing away food after a power outage or flood

Power Outage

After a power outage, sort through the food still in your fridge and freezer. This will help you avoid food poisoning.

Food in the Fridge

A thermometer is an essential tool to check the temperature in your fridge. It should be between 0 °C and 4 °C. This means that food stored in it will stay cold for about four to six hours after a power outage.

Note that:

  • food stays cold longer in a full fridge.  
  • during an electrical failure, it is important not to open the door of your appliance.  

What to Keep, What to Throw Away

For any power outage of more than six hours, food should be sorted when the power comes back on.

Here are some guidelines on what foods to keep and what to throw away.

When food shows signs of spoilage, it is best to throw it away. 

Dairy productsFirm block cheese (cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, etc.), parmesan, sliced cheese, processed cheese, butter, margarine, yogurtMilk, artificial milk (open containers), cream, soft cheese, cream cheese, yogurt (open containers)
Fruits and vegetablesWhole fresh fruits and vegetables, pasteurized fruit juicesVegetable juices (open containers), unpasteurized fruit juices, cooked vegetables or prepared raw vegetables
Prepared saladsDoes not applySalads containing meat, poultry or fish, pasta, cooked vegetables, coleslaw
Meat, poultry, fish and seafoodDoes not applyCooked or raw meat, poultry or fish dishes
Soups and saucesDoes not applySoups and sauces made with meat gravies, cream soups
EggsDoes not applyEggs in the shell, liquid eggs, egg-based dishes and desserts (quiches, custards)

Baked fruit pies, cakes, muffins, cookies

Desserts with cream, custards
PastaDoes not applyCooked pasta, pasta sauces, fresh pasta
SpreadsJams, jellies, marmalade, sweet spreads, peanut butter
CondimentsRelish, mustard, ketchup, commercial mayonnaise, salad dressing, BBQ sauce, taco sauce, commercial dressings, olives, marinadesHomemade mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish, oyster sauce, garlic in oil

Food in the Freezer

In general, frozen foods can be stored for 48 hours in a properly functioning freezer that is filled to capacity, provided it is kept closed.

In a half-filled freezer, the storage time is 24 hours.  

You should also consider the temperature of the room where the freezer is located. The cooler the room, the more the internal temperature of the freezer will be maintained. 

As for a fridge’s freezer unit, its capacity to keep food frozen is much less. This means that food can be defrosted more quickly in the event of a breakdown. 

Once the power is back on, check how much the food has thawed. 

  • Partially thawed food with frost on the surface of the package: can be refrozen if the centre of the food is still hard. 
  • Thawed raw foods that have remained at 4 °C or below: can be cooked immediately for quick consumption or refrozen after cooking. 
  • Completely thawed foods such as hard block cheeses, baked goods (bread, muffins, dough, cakes without filling, fruit pies, cookies), pasteurized fruit juices and fruit: can be refrozen if the containers are intact. 
  • Completely thawed perishable foods: discard if exposed to temperatures above 4 °C. Foods considered perishable include meat, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, prepared foods containing these raw or cooked foods. 

Remember, it’s not worth taking risks when it comes to food that shows signs of spoilage or looks questionable. When in doubt, it’s best to throw them away.

Food in a Slow Cooker

Food that has been interrupted from cooking in a slow cooker due to a prolonged power outage should not be eaten. It must be discarded. 


Following a flood, sort through foods that have come in contact with water to avoid food poisoning. 

The same precautions could apply in the case of another disaster such as water damage.


Throw away any food stored at room temperature, such as canned goods, peanut butter, muffins and crackers, that has been in contact with dirty water or is in leaky containers. 

Commercial cans are waterproof even if they are immersed in water. Their contents do not come into contact with water. Nevertheless, you should follow the recommendations below. 

Inspect the cans. Throw out all those:

  • that are damaged, such as swollen, punctured, broken or badly rusted cans
  • that are leaking or have holes in them
  • that are too crushed or deformed to be stacked normally or opened with a can opener 

Clean, rinse and dry the cans before opening them. 

When you open a can, check to see if the food looks normal.

Garden Fruits and Vegetables 

If your garden has been flooded, discard any fruits, vegetables and herbs that have grown above ground, such as strawberries or lettuce. 

Carefully clean vegetables that have grown underground such as potatoes and carrots.  

Fridge and Freezer 

If a power outage occurs during or after a flood, you will need to sort the food in your fridge and freezer. See the power outage tips at the beginning of this page.

For more information, contact the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation

Last update: March 21, 2024


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