While a few minutes without power might not be a problem, a power outage lasting several hours can impact the safety of food in your fridge or freezer at home. 

“It’s important to note how much time has passed with the power outage, especially for the fridge, and it’s important also during times of power outage not to keep opening the fridge,” said Dr. David Torr, medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA). 

“Every time you open it and it’s not running, you’re losing that cold and it’s getting warmer.” 

According to SHA, when it comes to your refrigerator, potentially hazardous foods should be thrown out when they’re kept above 4°C (40°F) for more than two hours.  

“Animal proteins are the most likely culprits for any kind of bacterial and fungal growth, and therefore potential food poisoning,” said Torr. “Especially meats - chicken, beef, pork, but also things like dairy products – milk, even ice cream if your freezer goes down.” 

Frozen foods need to maintain a temperature of -18°C (0°F), with vegetables, fish, and shellfish being particularly prone to the proliferation of bacteria once thawed.  

Dr. Torr recommends that those with cabins have a thermometer that lets you know what the minimum and maximum temperatures are when you aren’t there, to make sure you know about any possible power outages that could impact the safety of your food.  

“It’s unfortunate if you have to dispose of food, but it’s always safer to dispose of potentially contaminated food than to go through a bout of food poisoning.” 

The consequences of eating spoiled food are wide-ranging, from mild stomach pains with vomiting and diarrhea to complications in your internal organs.  

Cleaning your fridge and freezer when food has spoiled and thawed is also important, especially when meat has leaked. After food has been removed, the inside of the fridge and freezer should be cleaned out with warm water and detergent. 

The next step is to sanitize the units and racks with bleach and water (one tablespoon of bleach to six cups of water), with the solution being left for 45 seconds before being wiped clean with a cloth. SHA advises that bleach should never be mixed with other cleaning products.  

Foods should only be restocked once the units have reached the correct temperatures for food safety.