Storm-induced power outages can take you by surprise. If you’ve lost power and have a refrigerator full of food, make sure time and temperatures are on your side. If your home’s power is interrupted for two hours or less, losing perishable foods shouldn’t be a concern. When an outage is prolonged, it’s time to decide when to save and when to toss food away.

A digital quick-response thermometer can be one of the most useful tools you can wield in your battle to preserve food. The gadget checks the internal temperature of food, ensuring items are cold enough to eat safely.

Use these food safety tips to help you minimizing food loss and reduce the risk of foodborne illness:

Refrigerated Food

  • Keep refrigerator doors closed as much as possible. An unopened refrigerator keeps food cold for about four hours.
  • If food (especially meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) has been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two or more hours, or has an unusual odor, texture, or color, get rid of it. Remember the American Red Cross food safety rule: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
  • Never taste food to determine its safety or rely on appearance or odor.
  • Use perishable foods first, then frozen food.
  • To keep perishable food cold, place them in the fridge or cooler and cover with ice.

Frozen Food

  • A full freezer stays colder longer. Freeze containers of water to help keep food cold in the freezer. If your water supply runs out, melting ice can supply drinking water.
  • If you keep the door closed, a full freezer keeps the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full).
  • If food in the freezer is colder than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, is partially thawed, and has ice crystals on it, you can safely refreeze it.
  • Always discard frozen or perishable food items that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

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Sources: B. Denise Hawkins; American Red Cross, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services