Power Outages for Food Establishments

In Case of a Power Outage for Food Establishments

At all times, the permit holder has the responsibility and the obligation to the Health Authority and to the consumer to protect the public health from imminent health hazards that may be present and associated with his/her food service operation. As part of this responsibility and obligation, the permit holder is required to immediately discontinue operations and notify the local Health Authority should any imminent health hazard exist because of an emergency such as a fire, flood, interruption of electrical or water service for two (2) or more hours, sewage malfunction, misuse of poisonous or toxic materials, onset of an apparent foodborne illness outbreak, gross unsanitary occurrence or condition, or other circumstances that may endanger public health. The exception to the immediate notification to the local Health Authority is an occurrence of an interruption of electrical and or water service for less than two hours. However, the permit holder is still responsible for taking immediate action to control risk factors to protect public health during this two-hour period.

What can I do as an operator to ensure food safety prior to an impending power outage? 

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
    • Typically, a commercial refrigerator will keep food cold for only a matter of hours if it is unopened, so transferring Potentially Hazardous Foods/Time Temperature Control for Safety (PHF/TCS) foods to a freezer will ensure the food keeps proper temperature for a longer period of time, if the door remains closed.
  • If you plan to prepare refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe temperatures prior to an impending power outage, it’s important that each item is thoroughly cooked to the proper temperature and proper handling practices are employed to ensure hazards are prevented. However, if at any point the food was above 41°F for 2 hours or more — discard

Once Power is Restored

How do I determine the safety of the food within my establishment?

  • If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 41°F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. However, the food must be date marked due to it being thawed for this time period.
  • If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check the temperature of PHF/TCSfoods to determine their safety. You can’t rely on appearance or odor. If the food is 41 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.
  • Discard any PHF/TCS foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers) that have been above 41°F for two hours or more.

Keep in mind that PHF/TCS food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when the foods are thoroughly cooked.