Power cuts

How to prevent food poisoning and minimise food waste during a power cut or outage in your home.

If you experience a power cut in your home for longer than four hours, it's important that you make sure the food in your home is stored safely so that it's safe to consume. 

If your electricity is off for less than four hours, it is unlikely to have an impact on the safety of your food.

Storing food safely

Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible

Your fridge should keep your food at a safe temperature for up to four hours. The food in your freezer should stay frozen up to 48 hours if it’s full or about 24 hours if it’s half full. However bear in mind that these are estimates, and these timings depend on a number of factors like fridge make and model and ambient temperature.

Use a fridge thermometer

Using a fridge thermometer is a simple way to monitor the temperature inside your fridge. By regularly checking the thermometer, you can make sure that it’s at a safe temperature to store food even during power cuts. This helps to protect your food from spoilage and make sure that it remains safe to eat.

Normally, we advise to keep your fridge at 5°C or lower in line with our general guidance. However, during a power cut, it should be safe to store your food in the fridge as long as it doesn’t rise to 8°C. If the temperature rises to 8°C or more, then you should eat food that normally needs to be refrigerated within four hours.

Read our guidance on chilling food.

Store food outside

You can safely store chilled foods outside if it's 8°C or lower. The temperature might be different in direct sunlight and shade.

If you store food outside make sure it’s:

  • in a sealed container
  • out of direct sunlight
  • in clean, dry conditions
  • protected from any animals

Ways to minimise food waste

Eat chilled foods first

As chilled foods will go off the quickest, you should try to use these up first before other foods during a power cut.

Save tinned foods for later

Food that is normally stored at ambient temperature will continue to be safe to eat. Some foods such as tinned foods will be safe to eat without heating through.

To keep food safe and reduce food waste, use up foods in the following order:

  1. Foods that need to be chilled
  2. Defrosted frozen food that doesn’t need to be cooked
  3. Room-temperature perishable food
  4. Room-temperature tinned, bottled and dried food

Food that is normally stored at room temperature will continue to be safe to eat as you usually would, even if the best before date has passed.

Top tip

If you have too much food to eat before it goes off, you could share some with friends, family or neighbours to avoid it going to waste

Preparing and cooking food during a power cut

Cleaning and avoiding cross-contamination

It is important that you cook, handle, and prepare your food properly. This includes washing your hands before touching food and cleaning work surfaces and utensils. You can use alcohol-based hand sanitiser for cleaning your hands if the water supply is also cut off.

Always keep raw and cooked foods separate to avoid cross-contamination.

Read our guidance on cross-contamination.

Cooking with gas

Electric cookers will not work during a power cut, but gas cookers are more likely to function. You can also cook food and heat water for food preparation and cleaning using a camping stove, barbecue, or bottled gas stove. Please check the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use of these appliances. BBQs should not be used indoors.

Please note that cooking with these appliances can take longer than conventional cooking, so you need to make sure that food is steaming hot and cooked all the way through.

Visit our BBQ food safety page for guidance on cooking food on a barbeque or camping stove.

More advice about food poisoning and power cuts

Protect people who are vulnerable to illness

Some people are at increased risk of food poisoning. These can include young children, older people and people with an underlying health condition. For these people, extra caution should be taken to ensure food safety.

Preparing infant formula following a power cut

You need to boil water to prepare infant formula safely. If you can't boil water, use ready-to-use infant formula.

Public Health Scotland guidance on how to prepare infant formula safely.

More on this topic



You can’t see campylobacter, smell it or taste it on food but if it affects you, you won’t forget it.



It’s easy for germs to spread around the kitchen – stop the spread by avoiding cross-contamination.



Keep yourself and your kitchen clean by washing and drying your hands thoroughly.



Stop germs growing by keeping them cold. Look out for a use-by date or 'keep refrigerated' on the label.


Cooking food

Food poisoning isn’t just something you get outside your home – the meals you prepare can be a source of food poisoning too.