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Officials offer food safety tips

September 20, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

With thousands of residents without power because of Tropical Storm Isabel, the Washington County Health Department has issued some guidelines on food safety when freezers and refrigerators are out of commission.

"When in doubt, throw it out," is the best rule-of-thumb, said Rod MacRae, Health Department spokesman.

Some tips for saving food would include dividing the items among friends whose freezers are working; using freezer space at a church, store, school or commercial freezer that is still in service; or carefully storing items in dry ice.

Thawed food usually can be eaten or refrozen if it is still "refrigerator cold" or if it still contains ice crystals.

Discard any food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more, or food that has an unusual odor.

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A refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours without power if it is unopened. Add block ice or dry ice to the refrigerator if the unit will be off more than four hours.

If there is any question about the quality of tap water, don't mix powdered infant formulas with the water. Instead, use pre-prepared canned baby formula.

Health officials say never eat any food that may have come into contact with floodwater. Undamaged commercially canned foods that come into contact with floodwater can be saved if the labels are removed and the cans are washed and disinfected with a solution of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water. Relabel with a marker.

Food and beverages with screw tops and caps, flip tops or snap lids and home canned items should be discarded if they came into contact with floodwater because they cannot be disinfected.

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