Nova Scotia

What foods to keep, throw away after you lose power

If you have experienced a power outage, experts say you should be cautious about what food to keep and what you throw away.

If in doubt, toss it out, says Nova Scotia's Department of Agriculture

Debating whether that sandwich is still good after the power goes out? It could make you sick. (Candyce Sellars/CBC)

If you have experienced a power outage, experts say you should be cautious about what food to keep and what to throw away.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says people should discard any thawed food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours.

The agency advises people not to open the refrigerator or freezer door unless absolutely necessary to maintain the cold temperature during an outage.

A full freezer will keep food frozen for about 48 hours, while a half-full freezer only keeps things frozen for about 24 hours.

An unopened refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours.

The Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture says any food in the refrigerator that has been above 4 C for more than two hours should be thrown out.

There are some foods that are often implicated with food-borne illness and should be thrown away if stored above 4 C for two hours or more:

  • Raw or cooked meat, poultry, seafood and luncheon meats.
  • Casseroles, stews or soups.
  • Milk and soft cheeses.
  • Homemade mayonnaise or dressings.
  • Cooked pasta, potatoes or rice.
  • Salads made with any of these foods.

Foods that can be stored above 4 C for several days include:

  • Butter and margarine.
  • Hard or processed cheese.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as olives.
  • Mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce.
  • Salad dressings.
  • Peanut butter, jams and jellies.

The department also has several tips for deciding what food to keep and what to discard:

  • Food that has thawed, but is still cold or feels cold as if refrigerated (that is 4 C or below) may be refrozen. Raw meat or poultry should first be cooked before freezing.
  • Fish and shellfish should not be refrozen if they have completely thawed.
  • Frozen dinners, desserts and ice cream should not be refrozen.
  • Prepared foods may be refrozen but should be marked so they can be used as soon as possible.
  • If in doubt, toss it out.

A thermometer in your refrigerator or freezer will show you how cold the food has remained during the power outage.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency also warns that if raw food has leaked during thawing, it's important to disinfect the area.


If floodwater has come in contact with food containers that are not waterproof, such as containers with pull tops, screw caps or snap lids, those items should be thrown away.

Any sealed foods or canned goods should be cleaned and disinfected, as well as any preparation equipment, surfaces, dishes and utensils.

If the following items have come into contact with floodwater, they should be thrown away because they cannot be sanitized properly:

  • Baby formula containers.
  • Cardboard juice containers.
  • Home-canned foods.
  • Milk containers.