What To Do When The Power Goes Out

Learn to be food safe during power outages.

(NAPSI)-Do you know how to keep your food safe during a power outage caused by storms or other events? The U.S. Department of Agriculture has the answers to help you keep your food safe.

• Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperatures. Each time the door is opened, a significant amount of cold air is lost. Never taste a food to determine its safety.

&#149 The refrigerator will keep food cold safely for about four hours if unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below.

&#149 If possible, obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a long time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for two days.

&#149 If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the food in the freezer with a food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below, it’s safe. Check each package of food to determine its safety.

&#149 Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.

&#149 The safest rule of thumb: When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

“Power outages can occur at any time of the year and it often takes from a few hours to several days for electricity to be restored to residential areas,” said USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond.

“Foods stored in freezers and refrigerators can become unsafe in just a few hours if bacteria begin to grow, and if these foods are consumed, people can become very sick.”

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that as many as 5,000 people die each year due to some type of food-borne illness-that’s almost 14 people every day.

In addition, for one out of every five Americans, food-borne illnesses are even more dangerous than they are for the average healthy adult. Those in the at-risk category include young children, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

So when the lights go out and you’re left in the dark for more than a few hours, take precautions to avoid food-borne illness.

A video and brochure on keeping food safe during power outages are available online at www.fsis.usda.gov. You can also find answers to your food safety questions at askkaren.gov or by calling the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.