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  • Power Outages in Food Establishments

    Plan for an emergency before it happens.

    What should you do before, during and after a power outage? The tips below can help retail food businesses protect customers from foodborne illness and save their inventory.

    Store potentially hazardous foods below 41° F or above 135° F. These foods include:

    • Meats, eggs and dairy products.
    • Vegetables, cut leafy greens, tomatoes and cut melon.
    • Moist, non-acidic and perishable (cooked onions, green beans, pasta, rice).

    Before a power outage:

    • Consider buying an electrical generator to use in case you lose power.
    • Learn about the availability of refrigerated trucks to use during extended power outages.
    • Have a phone that plugs into a jack and does not need power.
    • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers.

    During a power outage:

    • Keep track of the time the outage begins.
    • Do not use gas or solid fuel (i.e., charcoal, wood, canned chafing dish fuel), cooking and heating equipment without proper ventilation. These fuels are dangerous and may cause injury or death.
    • Throw away any food that has not yet reached final cooking temperature.

    Cold food:

    • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
    • If practical, group packages of cold food together. Keep raw meat away from other food.
    • Cover any open display refrigerators and freezers, especially vertical displays.
    • Surround food with ice.
    • Note: If you use dry ice to cool food, an unsafe build-up of carbon dioxide may happen in enclosed spaces.

    Hot food:

    • Do not put hot food in refrigerators or freezers.
    • Use canned chafing dish fuel under food on electric steam tables to help keep potentially hazardous food at 135°F.

    Stop preparing food if:

    • You cannot maintain food at safe temperatures.
    • You lose hot water.
    • Water pressure drops below normal.
    • You cannot wash, rinse and sanitize utensils.
    • You lose light for employees to work safely.

    After a power outage.

    Verify the following conditions before you resume food preparation or reopen for sale:

    • Check the internal temperature of all hot and cold potentially hazardous food.
    • Discard all unsafe potentially hazardous food. See tables below.
    • Space out cold food in the refrigerator to cool faster.
    • Have hot and cold running water.
    • All equipment and facilities are operating.
    • All utilities are working.
    • Health Department has given you approval to reopen if the Department closed your facility.

    Potentially hazardous food.

     Cold foods
     Hours power is out Food Temperature
     45°F or below 46°F to 50°F 51°F or above
     0-2 hours OKOK OK
     2-4 hours OKOK X
     More than 4 hours OKX X
    • OK= Food may be sold, as long as it was 41°F or below when the power went out. Immediately cool food to 41°F or below.
    • X= Food may be unsafe and may not be sold.
    Hot foods
     Hours power is out Food Temperature
     130°F or above 129°F or below
     0-2 hours OK OK
     2-4 hours OK X
     More than 4 hours X X
    • OK= Food may be sold, as long as it was 135°F or above when the power went out. Immediately reheat food to 165°F or above. After reheating, hold at 135°F or above or rapidly cool to 41°F or below.
    • X= Food may be unsafe and may not be sold.

    See the following page for the above information: Washington State Department of Health Guidelines.

    Disposal of food:

    • When in doubt, throw it out!
    • Document the type and amount of food and the reason for disposal. You may need to provide the information to regulators and your insurance company.
    • For large amounts of food, contact your garbage company for instructions.



    Contact the Food and Community Safety program at or (253) 649-1417.