Keeping your food safe during a power outage, "when in doubt, throw it out"

(Photo courtesy of Chad Lee)

DANVILLe, Va. (WSET) -- Thousands of people across our viewing area are dealing with power outages, some for the next couple days.

"Many of us might not give a second thought to the food in the refrigerator until the power comes back on and things begin to return to normal," said Scott J. Spillmann, M.D., M.P.H., health director of the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. "That’s when you might begin to wonder if that sliced turkey in the back of the deli drawer is still good."

The number one rule is when in doubt, throw it out - never taste food to see if it is still fresh.

Remember, most bacteria are odorless, tasteless, and invisible to the naked eye, so a taste test could make you ill.

"Food safety is always a struggle between temperature and time," continued Dr. Spillmann. "The longer that food is stored at unsafe temperatures -- above 41° Fahrenheit -- the higher the chance for dangerous bacteria to multiply and make you sick."

If your refrigerator has been without power for more than four hours, the food inside is potentially dangerous.

Keep your fridge closed as much as possible while the power is out, to keep the temperature inside as cool as possible.

Freezers are slightly different as they will hold food safely for approximately 48 hours; a half-full freezer keeps food safe for approximately 24 hours.

If your freezer is not full, place containers of water in the empty spaces to freeze and help keep other foods cool if the power goes out.

If food in the freezer thaws, treat it as if it were in the refrigerator.

Discard items if the inside temperature rises above 41° Fahrenheit for two hours or longer.

For more information, contact the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District at 434-433-3544 or 434-433-3550.

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