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DC Department of Health Reminds Residents of Food Safety After Power Outage

Monday, July 26, 2010
Dispose of foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more.

Dispose of Foods that have been Above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours or more

Washington, DC –  With power outages affecting the region, the DC Department of Health reminds residents that during and after power outages residents should inspect all refrigerated food items before eating.  Food may not be safe for consumption in the event of a power outage, and should be examined before eating to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.  

Below are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tips to help assess the safety of foods that have been left in refrigerators during a power outage.  

Tips to Help Identify Safe and Spoiled Food

  • Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water
  • Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture
  • Throw away perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (F) for 2 hours or more
  • Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees F or below can be refrozen or cooked
  • Throw away canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged
  • Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices
  • Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (soda pop bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods should be discarded if they have come into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected
  • If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Re-label the cans with a marker and include the expiration date
  • Do not use contaminated water to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula

In order to keep food stored safely during a power outage, the CDC advises people to keep freezer and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible, and to add block or dry ice to refrigerators if electricity is expected to be off longer than 4 hours.  The CDC also recommends people wear gloves when handling ice.

For more information on food safety during an emergency, visit