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ECDOH advisory for restaurants that have lost power


Wed, Dec 28th 2022 12:40 pm

Recommendations & advice to prevent food poisoning, illness from spoiled foods after power outage

Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health

Following extended power outages that affected Erie County residents and businesses, the Erie County Department of Health is offering advice and recommendations about handling perishable foods that may have spoiled. This guidance is for restaurants and other food facilities, but is useful for residents, as well.

Spoiled foods can cause severe illness if consumed. Please also refer to food safety guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/index.html). This cannot be stated enough: The risk of food poisoning (and the associated liability) is never worth the cost of the food!

Extended Power Outages and Perishable Food Storage

Refrigerators/Walk-in Coolers:

√ Refrigeration units (regardless of make) will not reliably maintain refrigeration temperatures (<45⁰F) for longer than four hours without continuous electric service.

√ All potentially hazardous food (PHF)* in these units MUST BE DISCARDED if the electric service was interrupted for four continuous hours or longer.

Freezers (including walk-in units):

√ Fully stocked freezers (especially chest and walk-in styles) may maintain temperatures <32⁰F for up to 48 hours without continuous electric service. Partially/half-stocked freezers may maintain temperatures <32⁰F for up to 24 hours.

√ All PHF in these units must be carefully evaluated with a probe-style food thermometer for proper temperature maintenance before use. PHF found to be partially frozen (exhibiting ice-crystals) may be refrozen. Thawed PHF found to be <45⁰F may be used or treated as a refrigerated product and maintained at <45⁰F, and must be used as soon as possible. Thawed PHF foods found to be >45⁰F MUST BE DISCARDED.

If Flooding/Water Back-up Occurs:

•Discard all foods (not just PHF) and packaging materials that have been submerged in water, unless the food is sealed in a hermetically sealed can that has not been damaged. This includes DISCARDING:

√ Products in containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped-caps (i.e., beer/soda bottles), twist-caps, flip-tops, snap-open, similar type closures that have been submerged in water.

√ Refrigerated and frozen foods which have been submerged in water, except for retort pouches (i.e., vacuum packed pouches) – contact this department for the requirements necessary to salvage these items.

√ Products packed in plastic, paper, cardboard, cloth, and similar containers that have been submerged in water.


  • Discard all PHF that have been in the “Danger Zone” (between 45⁰F and 140⁰F) for four hours or more
  • Do not refreeze thawed food
  • Discard foods and other products submerged in flood/back-up waters
  • When in doubt, throw it out!
  • You cannot rely solely on appearance or odor to determine if a food will make someone sick
  • The risk of food poisoning (and the associated liability) is never worth the cost of the food!

*Potentially hazardous food is any food that consists in whole or in part of milk or milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, edible crustacean, cooked potato, cooked rice or other ingredients, including synthetic ingredients, in a form capable of supporting: (1) rapid and progressive growth of infectious, or toxigenic microorganisms; or (2) the slower growth of C. Botulinum.

Checklist for reopening the establishment

√ Hot and cold potable water available under pressure

√ All hand-washing and toilet facilities are fully operational

√ Electric and gas service operational

√ Refrigeration and freezer units are fully operational and holding temperature

√ Hot holding units fully operational

√ Proper cleaning and sanitizing facilities operational

√ Adequate and approved lighting operational

√ All PHF which has been out of temperature for four or more hours has been discarded

√ Frozen foods thawed due to power outage not refrozen

√ All food contact equipment that was submerged in water has been cleaned and sanitized

For more information or advice, contact the Erie County Department of Health at 716-961-6800.

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