See all our prevention tips

Conserving food: what to do during a power outage?

Published on May 21, 2022


What should you do with the contents of your fridge and freezer during an extended power outage? How should you handle food to make sure it can be eaten risk-free? What needs to most definitely be tossed out?

Follow these tips from L’Unique General Insurance to save yourself some hassle and learn how your home insurance can help in the event of a power outage.

What’s the magic number…

Keep this figure in mind during a power outage: 6 hours. Essentially, your fridge should be able to maintain the ideal temperature for proper food conservation, between 0-4 °C, for a six-hour period. After this time, the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) recommends sorting through fridge contents.

Your food will remain frozen in a full freezer for 48 hours risk-free and in a half-filled freezer for 24 hours risk-free.

Next up, some tips and tricks!

Though you might be left in the dark during a power outage, the following tips and tricks can prove useful and effectively light the way to maximize food conservation.

Maximizing conservation during a power outage: how?

Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible. In fact, resist the urge to open them and check. This way, you will maintain a safe and suitable temperature of between 0 and 4 °C. If you lose power in the winter, use a cooler placed outside to store some of your food. If you have a generator, now would be the right time to use it! Then plug in your essential appliances.

Finally, in the event of an extended power outage, do you have the option to borrow space in the fridge or freezer of an unaffected friend or family member? Do they have any shelf room to spare for your food?

Sorting food: what to throw out and what to keep?

You only need to sort food in your fridge if the internal temperature rises above 4 °C or if a power outage lasted more than six hours.

In this case, throw out:

  • food that appears spoiled;
  • opened containers of vegetable juice, yogurt or baby formula;
  • food and ready-made meals that contain: eggs, meat, fish, seafood, pasta (fresh or cooked), milk, cream, soft cheese, cream cheese, unpasteurized juice, prepared vegetables (salad, soup, etc.), cooked vegetables.

Consult Food Safety in an Emergency guidelines on the Government of Canada website for a complete list of food to discard.

You only need to sort food in your freezer if a power outage lasted more than 48 hours (full freezer) and more than 24 hours (half-filled freezer).

In this case, throw out:

  • all thawing perishable food.

If the power outage lasted less than 24 or 48 hours, depending on your freezer situation, you could refreeze:

  • any food with frost-covered packaging and a still frozen centre.
  • fruit, pasteurized juice, hard cheese and fully thawed baked goods, provided any packaging is not damaged.

You can cook and eat right away, or cook and refreeze, raw food that has thawed.

Preparing for a potential power failure: a tip?

Place a thermometer in your fridge so you can easily check the temperature inside at the time of an outage. You will be able to quickly see if it has an acceptable temperature for food conservation.

Claiming spoiled food: an option?

Contact a L’Unique General Insurance broker to review your home insurance coverage in the event of a power outage at your primary residence. It would be handy to compile a list of all spoiled food items beforehand if you are planning to file a claim. You can also include photos of any spoiled food to facilitate this process.

Finally, better to prevent now than deal with spoiled food later

Although food waste can make you sick to your stomach food poisoning can too… A little awareness about food conservation in the event of a power outage can go a long way.

Contact a L’Unique General Insurance broker if this has happened to you. They will certainly be able to help you out and answer your questions.