With widespread power outages throughout Northern New Jersey, many residents are unsure about what food they can still eat and what to throw away.
The following information will help you to understand how to keep food safe to eat during a power failure and when to discard spoiled food:
The first point is fairly obvious! Keep the freezer door closed to keep cold air inside. Don't open the door any more than necessary. A full freezer will stay at safe temperatures about 2 days; a half-full freezer about 1 day. If your freezer is not full, group packages so they form an "igloo" to protect each other.
If you think the power will be out for several days, try to find some dry ice. Keep dry ice wrapped and do not touch it with your bare hands. Use cubed ice or block ice in the refrigerator. Even if food has started to thaw, foods can be safely kept in the freezer. The foods in your freezer that partially or completely thaw before power is restored may be safely refrozen if they still contain ice crystals or are 40 °F or below.
You will have to evaluate each item separately. When in doubt, throw it out. In general, refrigerated items should be safe up to 4 hours. Keep the door closed as much as possible. Discard any perishable foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and leftovers) that have been above 40 °F for 2 hours or more. Also discard any other food that has an unusual odor, color, or texture, or feels warm to the touch. Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer at all times. This will remove the guesswork of just how cold the unit is because it will give you the exact temperature.
The key to determining the safety of foods in the refrigerator and freezer is knowing how cold they are. The refrigerator temperature should be at 40 °F or below; the freezer, 0 °F or lower.
More detailed information, along with a chart that tells which foods may be saved and which should be thrown out, may be found at http://www.mybergen.com/
You'll find North Jersey area Hurricane Sandy news and updates on mybergen.com, myhudsoncounty.com and http://www.yourmorris.com.