What You Can Save and What You Should Throw Out from Your Fridge After Losing Power

More than 350,000 lost power across the Carolinas after Hurricane Ian made landfall Friday afternoon. As of 11 am Saturday morning, more than 10,000 in Mecklenburg county alone remain in the dark.

Even if your fridge is still cool, some of that food may have spoiled. According to the USDA, perishable foods like meat, dairy and leftovers should be tossed after 4 hours. Once the temperature of your fridge gets above 40F, then the clock begins ticking on what you can save and what needs to be thrown away. Many perishable foods that need to stay in the fridge become unsafe to eat after being held above 40F for more than 2 hours.

If you’re still unsure, here’s a handy list from USDA:

Type of Food Held above 40 °F for more than 2 hours
Meat, poultry, seafood
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood;
soy meat substitutes
Thawing meat or poultry Discard
Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad Discard
Gravy, stuffing, broth Discard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef Discard
Pizza with any topping Discard
Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated” Discard
Canned meats and fish, opened Discard
Casseroles, soups, stews Discard
Soft cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco Discard
Hard cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano Keep
Processed cheeses Keep
Shredded cheeses Discard
Low-fat cheeses Discard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar) Keep
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk Discard
Butter, margarine Keep
Baby formula, opened Discard
Fresh shell eggs, eggs hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products Discard
Custards and puddings, quiche Discard
Fresh fruits, cut Discard
Fresh fruits, uncut Keep
Fruit juices, opened Keep
Canned fruits, opened Keep
Dried fruits, raisins, candied fruits, dates Keep
Sliced or shredded coconut Discard
Sauces, Spreads, Jams
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish Discard
(if above 50 °F for more than 8 hrs)
Peanut butter Keep
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, pickles Keep
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, hoisin sauces Keep
Fish sauces, oyster sauce Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressings Keep
Opened creamy-based dressings Discard
Spaghetti sauce, opened Discard
Bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, grains
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas Keep
Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough Discard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes Discard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette Discard
Fresh pasta Discard
Cheesecake Discard
Breakfast foods: waffles, pancakes, bagels Keep
Pies and pastry
Cream filled pastries Discard
Pies: Any with filling containing eggs or milk, e.g., custard, cheese-filled, or chiffon; quiche. Discard
Fruit pies Keep
Fresh vegetables, cut Discard
Fresh vegetables, uncut Keep
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices Keep
Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged Discard
Vegetables, cooked Discard
Tofu, cooked Discard
Vegetable juice, opened Discard
Baked potatoes Discard
Commercial garlic in oil Discard
Potato salad Discard
Casseroles, soups, stews Discard


Your freezer can stay totally frozen for more than 24 hours. Food will generally remain safe to eat from the freezer up to 48 hours after losing power.

Try your best to keep your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible during a power outage. Store frozen water bottles, or buy bags of ice to help preserve food. Never test the food to see if its safe to eat.

And remember to download the WCCB Weather App. Even if the power goes out, you will still be able to receive alerts and video updates on the latest weather.