Release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has advice for
Virginians who lost power during the March 6 snow storm: throw out the contents
of your refrigerator if the power has been out for more than four hours and
check food in your freezer carefully to be sure it's still safe to eat. “We have
a lot of tips for consumers,” said VDACS Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr. “But here
is the main one: when in doubt, throw it out.”
safety and meat and poultry inspectors will inspect food processors, grocery
stores and other retail stores in affected areas to ensure they handle food
safely. However, individual consumers also need to be aware that the potential
for foodborne illness at home grows every day that the power is out.
VDACS offers the following basic tips for keeping food safe to eat during a
refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to
maintain the cold temperature.
refrigerator will keep food cold for about four
hours if it is unopened. When that window passes, consumers will need
to discard most of the items in the refrigerator.
freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48
hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible if the power
is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice
should keep an 18-cubic foot fully-stocked freezer cold for two
If you plan to
eat refrigerated or frozen meat, poultry, fish or eggs while it is still at safe
temperatures, it's important to cook each item thoroughly to the
proper temperature to assure that any foodborne bacteria that may be
present is destroyed. However, if at any point the food was above 40° F for two
hours or more, discard it.
Wash fruits and
vegetables with water from
a safe source before eating.
For infants, try
to use prepared, canned baby formula that requires no added water. When
using concentrated or powdered formulas, prepare with bottled water if the local
water source is potentially contaminated.
Once power is restored, consumers will need to determine whether their
food is safe to eat using these guidelines:
- If an appliance
thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when
the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40° F or below, the
food is safe and may be refrozen.
- If a thermometer
has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to
determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food
still contains ice crystals or is 40° F or below, it is safe to
refreeze or cook.
food is likely safe as long as the power was out for no more than four
hours and the refrigerator door was kept shut. If the four-hour window
has passed, discard any remaining perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish,
eggs or leftovers.
in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that
are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed,
even when they are thoroughly cooked. Never taste food to determine its safety,
and always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact
with raw meat juices.
foods are safe to consume even if they have been held above 40° F for two hours
or more: hard cheeses, processed cheeses, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese,
jelly, relish, mustard, olives, pickles, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, fruit pies,
bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, fruit juices, canned fruits, whole fresh fruits
and raw vegetables except cut greens and cut tomatoes.