what can I keep in my refrigerator after power is restored?

Asked April 7, 2017, 10:03 PM EDT

My power was out for almost 13 hours, but I kept the refrigerator closed. I don't know how warm it became inside before power returned, but about 20 minutes after power turned back on the thermometer inside the fridge read 38 degrees, and after about 30 minutes of power it read 32 degrees and everything felt very cold. Is most of the food inside still safe to use? I did toss several things, but here are a few items I'm specifically curious about:

  • a spiral-sliced ham that I prepared for dinner the night before
  • unopened, fresh salsa
  • recently opened egg-free mayo
  • unopened 1/2 gallon of milk
  • some leftover, cooked taco meat and beans
If something like the ham isn't okay straight from the fridge, could I re-purpose it into a casserole, stir-fry or similar? Thank you!

Lane County Oregon food safety food storage

1 Response

Sorry to hear you had such a long power outage.

Looking at how fast your refrigerator temperature dropped once the refrigerator turned on, I can only guess that it was above 40 degrees for longer than 2-3 hours which makes all cooked foods risky. Since you consumed some of the food (ham and taco meat) you have the risk that it might have become contaminated with Staph and even heating would not destroy the toxin. Therefore I would probably not risk eating the ham or the taco meat. I especially would not risk serving it to anyone in the at risk group which would include infants and young children, pregnant women, elderly or people with compromised immune systems. It is just not worth getting sick.

Your salsa is probably all right because it is high acid. Mayo ok since it is commercial and high in acid as well. If you milk is not sour it would also be ok.

Products that are raw can be cooked and would be ok and many of your condiments that are often in refrigerator like pickles, mustard, catsup etc. would be ok as well as raw eggs if you cook them well. The big concern with food safety is low acid foods that have been cooked.

Thanks for using Ask an Expert

Nellie Oehler