If you're dealing with power that's been out for several hours (or even days,) congratulations: you have the tricky task of deciding what foods in your fridge are safe to keep and eat and what should be thrown out. The answer depends largely on how long you've been without power, but once the lights have been out for about four hours, the food in your fridge can quickly go from safe to dangerous.
Photo by Michelle Tribe.
Of course, the mantra in situations like this is usually "when in doubt, throw it out", but don't be afraid to use your nose too. The general rule is that once your fridge has lost power, it can keep foods safely for about four hours as long as you don't open the doors. After that, as the temperature rises, bacteria start multiplying like crazy, rendering your food not just unsafe, but also not very tasty.
So what should you keep? The folks at FoodSafety have details charts to help you decide, but the thrust is this: raw meats, poultry and seafood, soft cheeses, cooked vegetables and dairy products should probably be thrown away. Uncut or raw fruits and veggies, most sauces, condiments and spreads, and hard cheeses are all safe. The longer the outage, however, the more risky even those foods can be.
Hit the links below to see the chart in full, and to check out the freezer chart, which applies if your freezer has been without power for more than 48 hours. And don't forget StillTasty, another great site to help you decide if that food item is safe to eat.
Refrigerated Food and Power Outages: When to Save and When to Throw Out [FoodSafety.gov via Huffington Post]