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State offers food-safety advice

Daily Staff Reports

Virginia residents can take steps to better preserve food safely ahead of the arrival of the monster storm and potential power outages, according to a news release from the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

So long as the door is kept closed, a large full chest freezer can keep the same temperature for about 48 hours, as opposed to 24 hours for one that is only 50-percent full, according to the release.

If your freezer isn't full, frozen containers of water can be used to fill it up, and if the electricity goes out, insulate the freezer by throwing a blanket or rug over top of it, it states.

"A full freezer that is not opened should maintain safe temperatures for several days," the release states.

Although a freezer attached to a refrigerator isn't as efficient at maintaining a safe temperature for food, if it's not opened, the contents could still be safe for a couple of days, according to the release.

Refrigerated food doesn't fare as well as frozen during power outages, the release indicates -- food would only be kept cold around four hours. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers should be thrown out if above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two hours.

Dry ice can help prolong safe temperatures for food in both freezers and fridges, and block ice can also help for refrigerated food, according to the release.

The release advises that if an in-freezer thermometer reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit once the power returns, the food is fine and can be frozen again. If your freezer doesn't have a thermometer, check each item -- if it has ice crystals or is 40 degrees or lower, it, too, is safe.

"Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked," the release states. "Never taste food to determine its safety, and always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices."

Some foods are safe even after two or more hours above 40 degrees, and include hard or processed cheeses, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, jelly, relish, mustard, olives, pickles, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, fruit pies, fruit juices, canned fruits and raw vegetables -- with the exception of cut greens and cut tomatoes -- according to the release.

Most importantly, the release advises: "when in doubt, throw it out."

The VDACS also recommends that parents of infants stock up on prepared baby formula
that doesn't need water added to it, and if using powdered or concentrated formulas, mix it with bottled water if tap water could be contaminated.

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