With Sandy wreaking havoc on Long Island, here are some guidelines for keeping food safe over the next 72 hours, or until power is restored. For more information, click on this link to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service: http://ow.ly/eQYxv
LAST MINUTE ADVICE BEFORE YOU LOSE POWER
Water: It’s good to have plenty of clean water on hand so while everything is still working, fill as many pitchers have you have with tap water. Fill that stock pot, that huge lobster kettle that you never use. To avoid lifting heavy, water-filled vessels, use a pitcher to fill them. (In the bathroom, fill the bathtub with water to assist flushing the toilet in an emergency.)
Pack the freezer tightly: The more frozen food in the freezer, and the more tightly packed it is, the longer it will last. Make all the ice you can and freeze all your freezer packs. Fill plastic zip bags with water and freeze them, too. Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, fresh meat, and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
IF YOU LOSE POWER
Keep doors closed: Keeping your refrigerator and freezer closed is the best way to preserve their contents. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 to 6 hours if you keep the door closed. A full freezer will keep its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
But take these foods out first: There are probably a number of items in your refrigerator that do not require refrigeration. As soon as the power goes off, open the door once and take out these foods that can be safely held for a few days at room temperature: Butter and margarine, hard and processed cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, pasteurized fruit juices, dried fruits, breads, cakes (except cream cheese, frosted or cream-filled), open jars of vinegar-based salad dressings, jams, mustard, ketchup and peanut butter.
AFTER THE POWER COMES BACK ON
Check your refrigerator: If a thermometer reads 40 degrees or below, the food is safe. Discard the following foods if kept for more than two hours above 40 degrees: raw or cooked meat, lunch meats, poultry, seafood, casseroles, stews, soups, milk, cream, yogurt, soft cheeses, eggs, cooked pastas and potatoes, rice (and salads prepared from eggs, pasta, potatoes or rice), mayonnaise, creamy dressings and pastries or pies made with cream, cheese or custard.
Check your freezer: If the temperature never got above freezing (32 degrees), the food is OK. If you don’t have a thermometer, assess the food: In general, if it still contains ice crystals and feels as cold as if refrigerated, it is safe to refreeze — though the texture may be compromised. Exception: Discard any ice cream or frozen yogurt that has softened.