Press Release

January 30, 2009


Important Information for People without Power Due to the Winter Weather

Food and heating safety tips  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, is asking for the media’s help to get important information about food and heating safety to people who have lost power due to the recent ice and snow.

When the electricity is out, one question people often ask is how long food in a refrigerator or freezer will last. A fully stocked freezer will keep food frozen for two days, if the door remains closed. A freezer half full can keep foods frozen about a day. Another option is to buy dry ice. However, it should not be touched with bare hands because it freezes everything it touches. Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will hold a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing temperature for three to four days. Because dry ice also gives off carbon dioxide, the freezer door should be left open a short time before examining food. If you are unsure how long the electricity has been off, take extra precautions. If food is still “cold-to-the-touch,” it may be cooked and eaten immediately, or refrozen.

When a refrigerator is without power, food inside can stay safely cold for four to six hours, depending on how warm it is in the kitchen. The temperature of a refrigerator should be kept at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Adding block ice to the refrigerator will help keep foods cold, but as the ice melts, the water may saturate food packages. Consequently, food packages should be kept away from ice as it melts. Dairy products, meat, fish and poultry should be consumed as soon as possible after the power goes out since they cannot be stored safely at room temperature. However, fruits and vegetables can be kept at room temperature until there are obvious signs of spoilage such as mold, slime and wilting. With good ventilation, vegetables last longer at room temperature.

To dispose of foods that have gone bad, place them in tied garbage bags and in covered garbage containers. If you do not have garbage bags, wrap the food in newspaper and store in tight-lid garbage cans until pick up. These steps will help eliminate insect and rodent infestations. When stored outside, plastic bags, paper bags or bale units containing garbage must be stored in a manner inaccessible to insects and rodents.

Dr. Arnold also wants to remind people about safely heating their homes when the power goes out. Any heater that uses wood, coal, natural gas or kerosene produces carbon monoxide gas, which can be lethal. Adequate ventilation is essential in the home to prevent the built up of toxic fumes. Never use charcoal grills or Sterno-type fuels as indoor sources of heat and be sure to use only the proper fuel recommended by the manufacturer for heating devices.

For more information about Weathering Winter – log onto the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site at

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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