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Food Safety A Priority In Storm Aftermath

Friday, April 29, 2011 | 12:12pm
“When in doubt, throw it out,” says Tenn. public health official

NASHVILLE – Due to power outages experienced in storm and flood-impacted areas across the state, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding affected residents of the importance of food safety. To ensure public health and wellness, a senior department official is urging individuals to throw away all perishable food that may have been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.

“I understand this is a particularly stressful and difficult time for many Tennesseans, but it’s necessary to remind everyone that food compromised by a loss of electricity poses a health risk,” said State Medical Epidemiologist Tim F. Jones, M.D. “A commonly held food safety philosophy is ‘when in doubt, throw it out’. As you go about the process of recovery, your and your family’s health and wellness are too important to take any chances.”

Foods that should be discarded include canned goods that are bulging, opened or damaged as well as those that have an unusual odor, color or texture. Perishable food items that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or longer should also be thrown away. This includes meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and leftovers.

There are a few exceptions. Undamaged and dent-free canned food items may be cleaned. To do so, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (240 milliliters) of bleach in 5 gallons of clean water. Re-label the cans with a marker. Also, thawed food from the freezer that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below can be refrozen or cooked.

While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.

For more information, visit the TDOH website at


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