USDA: Don't Put Your Freezer Food Outside if the Power Goes Out

Freezing temps doesn't mean the outside is a makeshift freezer.

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With severe winter weather—and subsequent power outages—plaguing parts of the country, you've may have to get creative with those survival tactics. And while one might think the below-freezing outdoor temps is a good way to keep your perishable food safe if the power goes out, according to the USDA, it's not. 

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (aka FSIS) is pretty clear on the subject: it's a bad idea. Per the agency's website, the sun's rays can actually thaw food even if the temperature is freezing. Plus, the outdoor temps vary by the hour, causing an unsafe fluctuation. 

"Perishable items could be exposed to unsanitary conditions or to animals [which] may harbor bacteria or disease," the statement adds.

The FSIS isn't leaving the powerless without a solution, though. It said to just leave it be in the fridge or freezer—for the first few hours, at least. 

"The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened," FSIS recommends. "A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed." 

However, should you remain without power for an extended period of time, you'll want to secure some ice and toss it in the fridge to keep things chilled. Here's where you can take advantage of the outdoors. 

"Consider taking advantage of the cold temperatures by making ice," FSIS continues. "Fill buckets, empty milk cartons or cans with water and leave them outside to freeze. Then put the homemade ice in your refrigerator, freezer, or coolers." 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.