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Food Safety During Power Loss - “When in Doubt, Throw it Out”

LEONARDTOWN, Md. – Extreme weather conditions have caused flooding and power outages in many areas of St. Mary’s County. Under these conditions, food spoilage could become an issue for residents and commercial restaurants.  The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) is advising residents to take precautions regarding food spoilage and contamination. Follow food safety precautions to avoid food-borne illness and practice safe food handling during power outages, and remember to throw out any food if you are in doubt about its safety: 

• Perishable foods without refrigeration (and from the freezer) that have thawed and held a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more should be discarded. This includes meats, seafood, milk, yogurt, eggs, mayonnaise and cream dressings, pasta and desserts.

• Food items that can be kept for a limited time without refrigeration include: hard processed cheeses (e.g., romano and parmesan), butter and margarine, opened canned fruits and fruit juices, peanut butter, jellies, jams, mustard and vinegar based dressings, bread products like rolls, muffins, bagels, waffles, and herbs, spices and raw vegetables.

• It is okay to refreeze certain foods if the item still contains ice crystals, feels cold and is hard to the touch. This includes: meats, seafood products, juices, casseroles, egg products, cheeses, vegetables, pastries and frozen meals.

•  Discard all foods that come in contact with floodwaters including canned goods. Thoroughly wash all kitchen utensils, pots, plates, etc. after contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them in a solution of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water for 15 minutes.

• When discarding spoiled foods place them in double plastic bags closed with ties. Place in animal and bird proof trash cans.

• An unopened functioning freezer half full will keep foods safely for up to 24 hours. An unopened fully stocked freezer can keep foods safely for 48 hours.

• Use common sense when dealing with the issue of possible food spoilage - “When in doubt, throw it out.”

For more information about food safety, visit http://www.smchd.org/food-safety/

For more information about food safety during power outages and flooding, visit the FoodSafety.gov website here: https://www.foodsafety.gov/food-safety-charts/food-safety-during-power-outage.

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