Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates

Posts tagged ‘refrigeration’

Food Safety After a Hurricane

The big news along the Eastern seaboard is the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. While some people suffered losses, even a few deaths, the end result was more mild than originally predicted.  Because warnings started early and were dire, people and communities were more prepared and able to get out of harm’s way and protect their property as best as possible. Today’s post addresses what to do with refrigerated and frozen food vulnerable to spoilage due to power outages.

Traditional wisdom always told us, “When in doubt, throw it out!” This is good advice. No matter how good your sense of taste and/or smell are, all pathogens cannot be detected by our senses.

Experts in food safety agree that food can be safely eaten up to four hours after the power goes out, but depends on several factors: the temperature of the refrigerator (and therefore the food) when the power was lost, how many times the doors are opened and the volume of food in there at the start. The fuller the refrigerator, the longer the food will keep. Freezers will hold food safely for 24-48 hours, also subject to the above conditions.

If the power loss exceeds these times, the safest course of action is to throw the food out. Cooking does not kill all bacteria and pathogens. The risk of poisoning from tainted food is not worth taking to preserve a financial investment. Food poisoning can kill vulnerable populations such as the very young, the old or those with chronic disease.

If food is exposed to flood waters, it too should be discarded. The source or path of the flood water likely contains toxic substances at worst and unclean water at best.

For more information, visit the USDA’s web page:


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