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After a Blackout: What to Toss, What to Keep

by Berkeley Wellness  

The lights have just come back on after a power outage. The foods in your fridge have sat above 40°F for over two hours. What should you toss; what should you keep? Some of the answers below may surprise you.

Note that this advice, from Foodsafety.gov, is based on a somewhat arbitrary cut-off and is extra conservative. How risky these foods really are depends on how long the food has been at “unsafe” temperature, how fresh they were to begin with, and your health status, among other variables. Some foods may just simply taste terrible after being left out, as opposed to being dangerous. Use the following list as a guideline—along with common sense. Young children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immunity or in frail health should, however, err on the side of safety and follow it more closely. (You can view the complete list at Foodsafety.gov.)


  • Raw or leftover cooked meats, poultry, seafood
  • Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage
  • Tuna, chicken, egg salads
  • Soy meat substitutes
  • Low-fat and shredded cheeses
  • Soft cheese (such as cottage cheese, brie, muenster, ricotta, mozzarella)
  • Eggs (raw and cooked) and any dishes containing eggs
  • Custards and puddings
  • Milk, sour cream, yogurt
  • Fresh fruit that’s been cut
  • Potato salad
  • Casseroles, stews, soups
  • Pizza (with meat and/or vegetables toppings)


  • Hard cheeses (Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone)
  • Processed cheeses
  • Butter, margarine
  • Fruit juices, opened (if pasteurized)
  • Fresh and canned fruits
  • Raw vegetables
  • Peanut butter
  • Condiments (mustard, catsup, relish, soy sauce, barbecue sauce)
  • Jelly
  • Bread, tortillas
  • Grated Parmesan (in can or jar)
  • Vinegar-based dressings

Note: Discard opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and horseradish if they sit above 50°F for over 8 hours.

For more information, go to this FDA page. Or use the free FoodKeeper app, available for mobile devices; it provides storage information for hundreds of foods. Download it here.