Food safety is a top priority for restaurant operators and requires proper food handling techniques and effective control of all food safety hazards.  Time-temperature control of foods is a critical factor in the prevention of foodborne illness. During a power failure, the time-temperature relationship is compromised. Disease-causing microorganisms can multiply rapidly in foods held in the temperature danger zone between 4°C and 60°C.

Foodservice operators are advised to take the following steps in the case of a power interruption:

* Record the time the power outage starts
* Discard any food that is in the process of being cooked
* Discontinue all food preparation
* Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible
* Put packages of refrigerated food together to reduce heat gain
* Do not put hot food in refrigerators or freezers
* Ensure that raw meat, poultry and fish are stored in refrigerators separate from cooked and ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination


If power is restored within four to six hours and the refrigerator and freezer doors remain closed throughout the power shortage, some food may be salvageable.  Follow these guidelines and remember: if in doubt, throw it out.

If you cannot verify, using a metal stem probe thermometer, that the temperature of perishable food did not exceed 4°C for more than two hours, the food should be discarded.  This includes raw or cooked meat, casseroles, stews, soups, dairy products (milk, cream, soft cheeses), cooked pasta, cooked potato, cooked rice and salads.

Refrigerator and freezer units must be cleaned and sanitized before replenishing food supplies.

* The following foods can safely be stored above 4°C for 24 hours: whole non-cut fresh fruits and vegetables, ketchup and relishes, bread, rolls and muffins and certain hard cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, parmesan and romano.

* If freezer doors remain closed, food should remain frozen for 24 hours. Verify that food is 0°C or lower by using a metal stem probe thermometer.

* Meats that have thawed but did not exceed 4°C can be safely cooked or refrozen.

* Ice cream, frozen dinners, vegetables, fish and shellfish that have thawed should be discarded.

* All foods that still contain ice crystals can be refrozen, but partial thawing and refreezing may reduce quality.

* If foods have dripped juices in either the refrigerator or freezer discard affected food and clean and sanitize the area.

For a complete guide to food safety controls in a foodservice operation refer to the Food Safety Code of Practice for Canada’s Foodservice Industry.

Other information sources:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency