Food safety in an emergency

Food may or may not be safe after an emergency situation such as a:

  • power failure
  • flood
  • bushfire
  • severe weather event.

Always remember:

When in doubt, throw it out!

Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been kept warm for too long, they may contain bacteria which may make people ill.

Keeping your food cool

If you experience a power failure during any emergency event, there are several steps you can take to reduce the chance of getting food poisoning and limit the amount of spoiled food.

Take note of the time your power goes off, and if the power is out for more than a few minutes:

  • Keep your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep the air temperature colder for longer. A closed fridge/freezer should keep your food cool for 4 to 6 hours in your fridge and up to 24 hours in the freezer.
  • Quickly move perishable food from the fridge to the freezer.
  • Store meat, poultry and fish in the coldest part of the fridge.
  • Eat refrigerated/frozen food first. Use other perishable products like fresh fruit, vegetables and bread before consuming long life products.

When power is restored

After the power has been restored you should check the temperature of perishable food in your refrigerator to see if the temperature is 5°C or below.

Less than 2 hours

If perishable food is above 5°C and the power has been off for less than 2 hours you can re-refrigerate the food or use it immediately.

Between 2 and 4 hours

Perishable food above 5°C can be consumed immediately.

More than 4 hours

If the food temperature is above 5°C or has defrosted in the freezer certain foods may be unsuitable to consume if stored above 5°C for more than 4 hours. These include:

  • raw or cooked meat
  • meat topped pizza
  • manufactured meats
  • casseroles, stews or soups
  • milk, cream, yoghurt, soft cheese (for example camembert and brie), most dips
  • mayonnaise, tartare sauce, creamy dressings, aioli and other salad dressings
  • cooked pasta, potato, rice and salads prepared from these foods
  • sweet baked foods with cream
  • custard.

Safe foods

Certain foods can be safely stored at room temperature (above 5°C) for longer periods of time and still be safe to eat. These foods include:

  • butter and margarine
  • hard cheese
  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • dried fruit and nuts
  • fresh herbs and spices
  • open jars of salad dressing, peanut butter, relish sauce
  • mustard
  • bread, rolls, cakes and muffins.