At What Temperature Does Food Spoil In The Refrigerator?

The food quality in your refrigerator or freezer won’t be impacted by a minute-long power outage. How long does the fridge maintain its frigid temperature during prolonged electrical outages of hours or days, and at what point does the fear of bacterial growth force you to throw away your perishable food? Detailed information is provided below.

Food will spoil when the temperature reaches more than  40 degrees. Spoilage begins to occur within 10 to 12 hours of a refrigerator’s freezer losing power. If you don’t touch the freezer to check the contents, they should last for 48 hours.

How Long Will My Refrigerator Remain Cold?

According to Tamika Sims, Ph.D., head of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council, a refrigerator will probably maintain a safe temperature if the door is kept closed for up to four hours in the absence of power. Food in your freezer keeps cold for even longer; it lasts for roughly a day if it’s half full and for around 48 hours if it’s complete.

However, resist the need to check on your meal every few minutes, as doing so may hasten the temperature rise and, in turn, the food spoiling. Sims advises closing the doors to your refrigerator and freezer to preserve the chilly temperature during power outages.

How To Tell When Food In My Refrigerator Starts To Spoil?

Will Food Spoil At 45 Degrees
Food stored in a refrigerator


Electrical thermometers in your freezer and refrigerator can be used to assist you in deciding if your food is good to eat during a power failure. Sims adds that the freezer should be at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit and that the refrigerator should typically be no higher than 40 degrees. A food thermometer can be used on each item to determine whether it is safe to eat if the appliance does not have one built to measure temperature.

You shouldn’t always base your decision about a food’s safety on its appearance or smell, even though some items, such as dairy and meats, may begin to look or smell terrible. Sims advises that frozen foods should have an interior temperature under 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to defrost or reheat for eating.

Sims advises discarding leftovers, meats, and eggs exposed to temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Fahrenheit for further than two hours. The FDA, CDC, and other government health authorities’ websites like offer a concise introduction to the main food groups that might help you decide what to keep and throw.

What You Should Do

We advise staying on the side of caution at all times. Therefore, it is best to toss out any food in your refrigerator or freezer during a power outage—or at any other time, for that matter—if you are doubtful about its safety and instead rely on pantry items that can be stored on the shelves.

Additionally, in order to reduce food waste, it is advisable to consume the most perishable foods first. These include leftovers, meat, poultry, and foods containing milk, soft cheese, cream, or sour cream, provided their temperatures are safe to consume.

If the power had been out longer than a day, how to prevent food from rotting. To assist keep perishables at a safe temperature, if there is a chance that the power will be off for several days, buy dry ice or block ice for your refrigerator or freezer.

Regarding what the New York State Department of Health says, frozen food cannot be stored in temperatures that are too warm for refrigerated food. The sun can still heat food to a temperature that would encourage the growth of bacteria even if it is pretty cold outside. Nevertheless, even in the winter, avoid leaving food outside to stay chilled.

How To Safely Store Food Before Power Goes Out

You can take action to lengthen the shelf life of your frozen and refrigerated food long before the storm ever develops. The Department of Health in New York State advises storing frozen goods together in a freezer compartment or on a tray so that their fluids, which may contain bacteria, won’t mingle with other foods when they start to thaw.

Keep in mind that items with high water content, like meat or fruit, will remain frozen for longer than goods with low water content, like bread.

When the lights are restored

Check the freezer and refrigerator’s temperatures when the electricity has been restored. Check each package if a thermometer wasn’t used in the freezer. The meal is safe if the thermometer registers 40 degrees F or less. Food is safe if ice crystals are still present in it.

Throw away any perishable food, including leftovers, deli items, meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, and dairy products, stored in a refrigerator or freezer for two hours or more at a temperature above 40 degrees F. And if in doubt, discard it.

How Hot Or Cold Should A Refrigerator Be?

Between 35°F and 38°F is the perfect refrigerator temperature. This recommendation has no ice crystals or frozen meals, but it is just above the danger level. Food spoils significantly more quickly in danger zone temperatures than at cold or hot temperatures because germs proliferate exponentially at these temperatures. According to the FDA, consuming spoiled food increases the risk of developing Salmonella and E. coli infections and other more severe health problems.

How To Organize Food In Your Refrigerator

The refrigerator runs a little bit colder in certain places than in others. The refrigerator’s rear and bottom are the most challenging parts, while the top shelves are slightly warmer. The warmest areas are the door shelves. How to store the following:

Upper shelves: The best place to keep leftovers and snacks is up there. Because food is easier to obtain and the temperature is more stable on these shelves, it is harder to forget to eat the extra Bolognese pasta.

The Door: Condiments should be kept inside the refrigerator door—not milk and eggs! Dressings have a higher concentration of preservatives than other foods, which helps them maintain their shelf-life and are less sensitive to temperature changes.

Butter compartment: Make advantage of the butter compartment if butter is kept in the door. Even if the refrigerator door is often opened, the tiny door helps maintain that area cool.

Meat drawer: Some refrigerators contain “deli” or “meat” drawers that are made to be colder than the rest of the fridge. As a result of the lower temperatures, bacteria’s growth is slowed, and they cannot spread quickly, keeping your meat fresher for longer. Aim for 32°F for all other uncooked meat and 36°F for deli meat in your refrigerator if it has a temperature control feature.

Lower shelves: Since the bottom shelves are the coolest, it is advisable to keep perishable items like raw meat and dairy there if you don’t have a separate meat drawer. Additionally, if your meat leaks, this helps prevent cross-contamination.

Crisper drawers: Also referred to as fruit and vegetable drawers, aren’t made to be cooler than other refrigerator compartments, but they do assist regulate humidity. Fruits tend to benefit from low humidity, whereas vegetables tend to benefit from high humidity. Be sure to store fruits and vegetables individually because fruits typically produce ethylene, a chemical that aids in ripening and can hasten the development of nearby vegetables.

Keep in mind that not all produce benefits from refrigeration. Potatoes, onions, and garlic should all be kept in a superb, dark location. Melon and tomatoes should both be kept on the counter for storage. As they ripen, both will become sweeter and tastier.

How To Maintain A Safe Temperature In Your Refrigerator

At What Temperature Does Food Spoil In The Refrigerator
Refrigerator temperature settings

Food should be promptly chilled. Food should be kept at room temperature for a maximum of two hours and only sixty minutes when the temperature is more than 90°F. Food should then be covered and chilled in order to maintain food safety regulations.

Avoid cooling hot food in the refrigerator. Instead, it should be cooled to room temperature before being put in the fridge for two significant reasons: the hot food could lower the refrigerator’s temperature and cause the nearby food to spoil. Additionally, heated food lingers in the danger zone for longer than food at room temperature since it takes longer to cool.

Look for any tears in the gasket of your refrigerator that can allow chilled air to escape. The slightest tear could stop the door from shutting correctly and ultimately cause the temperature to drop.

Do Not Overfill Your Fridge

The FDA states that in order to keep goods appropriately cooled, cold air must flow around them. The coils should be clean. Refrigerator coils, which can be found on the back, top, or bottom of your fridge, are in charge of keeping everything cool. By releasing heat to chill and compress the refrigerant, which is in order to absorb heat from the refrigerator and freezer, they assist the refrigerator in functioning.

The coils’ ability to effectively emit heat may be hampered by dust or pet hair accumulation over time. The compressor may become too hot due to an assembly.

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