After a power outage, the food in your refrigerator and freezer may or may not be safe to eat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises people to throw out refrigerated perishable items, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers after an outage that has lasted four hours or longer.
When in doubt, throw it out. After an outage, don’t taste food to determine its safety.
To preserve the freshness of your refrigerated perishable items before and during an outage, please follow these tips, courtesy of the American Red Cross and the USDA.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours.
- A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. Need to fill some space? Just add water in jugs or bottles. Keep in mind that ice expands as it freezes, so leave some extra space in the container.
- Turn the thermostat controls down to the lowest temperature settings. This can help everything stay colder, longer.
- Pack dry ice in your freezer. Many grocery stores sell this and the dry ice temperature is more than 100° below freezing.
- First use perishable food from the refrigerator. Perishables should have a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) or below to be safe to eat. Then use food from the freezer.
- If it looks like the power outage will continue beyond a day, prepare a cooler with ice for your freezer items.
- Keep food in a dry, cool spot and keep it covered at all times.
For a detailed guide on which types of you perishable items you should discard after a power outage, visit https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/food-safety-during-power-outage.
Filing a Claim for Spoiled Food
SDG&E processes claims according to rules set by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates how we operate. Per that process, SDG&E is not liable for circumstances beyond our control, including weather conditions that lead to safety power shutoffs. SDG&E has a legal obligation to abide by tariffs, or rules, that prevent payment for damages, such as food spoilage.
However, if you feel that we are at fault for your loss, you may file a claim. SDG&E investigates all claims in an objective and professional manner. Each claim is evaluated based on its own merits and the outcome of our investigation. We require specific documentation, such as sales receipts and accounting records, to support and verify any alleged loss.
Once a claim is received, SDG&E will respond to start an investigation and request additional information, if necessary. The claim form can be found here.