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Tips on determining if food is safe during power outage

Tuesday, July 27, 2010; A04

When people lost power during last winter's Snowmageddon, they could salvage some of the food in their fridges and freezers by sticking it in a trash bag and burying it in a snowbank.

That's not an option during this heat wave-induced power outage. But there's plenty of online advice for keeping food safe -- and gauging its safety -- when the power is out.

Here's a summary:

-- Keep the refrigerator and freezer closed as much as possible. Opening the door lets cold air out and hot air in. (Try to coordinate trips to the fridge with other family members.)

-- If the power is out for two hours or less, the food in both fridge and freezer should be safe to eat.

-- If the power is out for more than two hours, try to move meat, fish, poultry, eggs and other perishable items to an insulated, ice-packed cooler.

-- If your freezer is tightly packed, food should stay safe to eat for 48 hours. If it's only half-full, the food's probably safe for 24 hours.

-- Check every item with a food thermometer just before eating or cooking with it. If it's over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it's not safe. You can't rely on taste, smell or appearance when judging food safety.

-- Once the power is back on, freezer food can be refrozen if it still has ice crystals in it and its temperature is 40 degrees or less.

-- Jennifer LaRue Huget

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