Douglas County Health Department: Food Safety Is a Concern after Power Outage

Food safety is a concern after the recent power outages in eastern Nebraska, according to the Douglas County Health Department.
“If the power in your home is out for less than two hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer will be safe to eat,” Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said. “Keep the doors to your appliances closed as much as possible while the power is out to preserve the cold.”
Here are some rules to follow if your power is out more than two hours:
• A full freezer will safely hold food for 48 hours, while a half-full freezer will safely hold food for up to 24 hours.
• Pack items from the refrigerated section, like milk, meat, fish, eggs, and spoilable leftovers, into a cooler filled with ice. Inexpensive Styrofoam coolers work fine for this.
• Use a digital quick-response thermometer to check the temperature of your food before you cook or eat it. Dispose of any food with a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some other ideas that may help include asking friends who have electricity to share their freezer space, even if you have to divide up the frozen items. You also can look for freezer space in a store, church, school or commercial freezer, and dry ice is another option. Thawed foods that are still “refrigerator cold” or have ice crystals usually can be eaten or refrozen.
Twenty-five pounds of dry ice will keep a 10-cubic-foot freezer below freezing for three to four days. Be careful when handling dry ice because it freezes everything it touches.
Caution: Dry ice forms from carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. In high enough concentrations it can significantly lower the percentage of oxygen in air of poorly ventilated areas (enclosed spaces). Cool carbon dioxide gas may sink to the floor and lower the percentage of oxygen near the floor in a poorly ventilated room. Increased carbon dioxide concentrations can cause problems for pets or children because they have a higher metabolism and may be closer to the floor where the concentration of carbon dioxide is highest.
“To be absolutely sure you are safe, the best practice is when in doubt, throw it out,” Dr. Huse said. “Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two or more hours, and any food that has an unusual smell, look or feel.”

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