Properly storing perishable foods like dairy products is usually no problem when your refrigerator/freezer is working as it should. However, problems affecting not only the quality of your food but the safety of it as well occur when the temperature inside the unit rises above safe or acceptable levels when the power goes out. Here are some helpful tips to keep food safe.

  • Eliminate guesswork. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer at all times. Temperature is vital information to know during a power outage.
  • When the power goes out, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed – open only as necessary.
  • Refrigerated items should be safe for up to four hours—if the temperature inside has been maintained at 40°F (or lower).
  • Most perishable foods that have been above 40°F for two hours or more should be thrown out.
  • A full freezer will stay at a safe temperature for about two days; a half-full freezer for about one day.
  • Some foods that have partially thawed may be safely refrozen if they contain ice crystals; however, all foods need to be evaluated separately to determine safety.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

When it comes to dairy, the following are considered safe even if held above 40°F for more than two hours:

  • Hard cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, Romano
  • Processed cheeses
  • Grated Parmesan, Romano or combination (in can or jar)
  • Butter

Dairy Foods That Have Been Frozen

Here is a handy chart to help you determine which dairy foods to keep from your freezer and which ones to toss once power is restored. (Remember: Never taste food to determine its safety.)

Milk

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Refreeze. May loose some texture.

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Discard

Ice Cream, Frozen Yogurt

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Discard

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Discard

Cheeses (soft and semi-soft)

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Refreeze. May loose some texture.

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Discard

Cheeses (hard)

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Refreeze

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Refreeze

Cheeses (shredded)

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Refreeze

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Discard

Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheeses

Still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated?

Refreeze

Thawed, and held above 40°F for more than two hours?

Discard