The temperature in my refrigerator has suddenly increased and seems stuck at 55 degrees (12ºC) no matter how I set it. Clearly something is wrong but it's Sunday and I can't get anyone out to check it today. Do I need to toss the food inside? Freezer seems fine.

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    You just have use your common sense. Depending upon how long the refrigerator has been warm, you may need to throw some things away. Some things (produce and most condiments for example) will be fine until tomorrow. Milk may spoil (somewhat unlikely) but it won't become unsafe. Meats that are still salvageable should be put in the freezer. See: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/34670/…
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 16:08
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    If you can purchase bags of ice @ your local beverage store or supermarket get a few and put them in the refrigerator. You may have to stick some stuff in the freezer to make room. Note: wrap the bags of ice in a good trash bag as they usually have small holes caused by handling. If you can get dry ice, all the better.
    – IconDaemon
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 19:18
  • Agreed on the above comments. Be sure to check your freezer temp. As I have found in storms such as hurricanes and Nor'easters when we have a power outage, h freeze
    – Cindy
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 21:05
  • Sorry for not finishing my comment in time. Just be sure to keep a constant check on your freezer temps. It would be rare to have a temp problem in the refrigerator that does not affect the freezer.
    – Cindy
    Commented Sep 7, 2014 at 21:17
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    Possible duplicate of How do I know if food left at room temperature is still safe to eat?
    – moscafj
    Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 1:13

2 Answers 2


Dairy and meats should be tossed to be safe if they were at 55 degrees for more than a few hours in my opinion. When I have difficulty tossing questionable food, I mentally compare the potential cost of a trip to the ER, lost work, and pain/suffering compared to the cost of the food. The decision to toss or not to toss could be compared to the quandary of whether to purchase insurance or just hope there aren't any accidents or disasters.

Remember that cheese does not go bad and is better soft, so do not toss that. Cottage cheese is not really cheese and should be tossed, as well as mayo, salad dressings. Depending on source of your eggs, you may consider discarding. In the US there is high salmonella risk, so eggs should be tossed, unless from your own chickens. Do not toss the butter.

The source of cold for the refrigerator comes from the freezer; it just seems to still be cold since it will take longer to thaw. Rule #1 is do NOT open the doors unless absolutely necessary. You will lose tremendous amounts of cool air each time. If necessary, you may have to unload contents into coolers and pack in ice. If you do that right away with risky food items, may not need to toss a thing. Usually here when the power goes out, it's during a massive storm, so running to town to get bags of ice to pack perishables in is not really an option. But for a temporary mechanical problem, I would definitely run to the store and pack meat, dairy, perishables in ice in coolers, leave the less perishable, and keep the doors shut.


Definitely don't agree about the meat. You should get rid of any raw meat or fish in there no matter what. I would not even trust it after putting ice in there. Milk will likely be spoiled, or it will spoil much sooner than normal, but you can check that yourself. See the FDA's guidelines -"Temporarily" going over 40 degrees F is "okay" but above that, no: http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/healtheducators/ucm082294.htm

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    If a fridge getting warm for any length of time automatically caused meats to become unsafe, it's a wonder that any of us can, you know, shop.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 1:06
  • Yes, taking into account your common sense and also the fact that this is coming from a government document so there is liability to be taken into consideration. FWIW I've left out chicken and beef to thaw on the counter all day long and haven't ever been made sick by my own cooking - because I know that I cook everything thoroughly, and maybe also because I've been lucky. But I can't ethically advise anyone to do that, because common sense isn't so common, and situations vary. So you give the most cautious advice in practice. Commented Oct 6, 2016 at 17:36

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