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Power Outages in Food Establishments

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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
 2-4 hours
 More than 4 hours
  • 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
2-4 hours
More than 4 hours
  • 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) 798-6460.


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