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Food safety during a power outage; when you should throw it out

When in doubt, throw it out. A doctor tells us why it can be risky to eat perishable items after a power outage.

When the power goes out unexpectedly, you may be left with a fridge full of question marks.

Baruch Fertel, MD, an emergency medicine physician with Cleveland Clinic, said during a power outage it’s important to make sure perishable items are safe to eat.

“Once the temperatures are not at the appropriate cold level, it provides an ideal medium for viruses, for bacteria, to replicate and then one can get a foodborne illness, sometimes called a diarrheal illness and could get very sick,” he explained.

So, what’s okay to keep and what should be tossed?

According to the FDA, food is safe in a closed refrigerator for about four hours.

Food can also be kept safely up to 24 hours in a half-full freezer, and for 48 hours in a full freezer – provided it hasn’t been opened.

Items are safe to re-freeze if they have icicles, or are 40 degrees or less.

However, Dr. Fertel said if there’s any doubt – throw it out.

“If it doesn’t look right, if it doesn’t smell right, don’t do it,” he advised. “Don’t eat it. Don’t take chances. Perishable items, things like meat, dairy products, cut up fruit, leftovers – if the power’s out, throw it out.”

Dr. Fertel adds that the very old and the very young are most at risk for complications from a diarrheal or foodborne illness.

RELATED: Power outages impacting parts of West Michigan


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