Food Safety: What You Need to Throw Out After a Power Outage

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With more than 7 million people out of power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there’s another important danger to consider – and it’s inside your fridge!

No electricity means card games by candlelight, but it also means tons of spoiled food when refrigerators and freezers stop working.

“Keeping food at safe storage temperatures in a power outage and away from flood waters is crucial to avoiding foodborne illness in weather emergencies,” U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for food safety Elisabeth Hagen said in a USDA news release.

So what do you REALLY need to throw out?

The general rule is to discard any perishables that have been stored above 40 degrees F for more than two hours, no matter what their appearance or odor.

“Words to live by with food safety concerns are, ‘When in doubt, throw it out,'” Toby Smithson, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told the Huffington Post.

Here are some basic tip for refrigerated food:

1. Get rid of any meat, poultry or seafood that has been stored over 40 degrees F for two or more hours. This includes lunchmeats, salads like tuna and egg, and any food cooked with meat (like casseroles, stews or pizza).

2. While you need to toss soft cheeses like brie, mozzarella and cottage cheese – as well as shredded cheese of any kind – hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss and provolone should be fine.

3. Get rid of all eggs and any egg products.

4. Butter and margarine are safe to keep, but toss all other dairy products including milk, cream, yogurt and baby formula.

5. Fresh fruit that’s been cut up should be discarded. All other fruit and fruit juices should be fine.

6. Most of your condiments and spreads should last through a power outage. Peanut butter, jelly, relish, mustard, ketchup and sauces like soy, barbecue and Worcestershire are all safe, as are any vinegar-based dressings. Get rid of any open tomato sauce, cream-based dressings, any fish sauces and mayo, tartar sauce or horseradish that has been stored at above 50 degrees Fahrenheit for more than eight hours.

Most importantly – DO NOT, under any circumstances, taste food to see if it’s still good to eat. And for a full list of refrigerator and freezer guidelines, visit FoodSafety.gov.

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