If your power was out just a few hours and you didn't open the refrigerator or freezer, chances are the food is OK. A refrigerator should keep food cold for four hours and a half-full freezer 24 hours (48 hours if the freezer is full) if you don't open the doors, according to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Here's a clip-and-save checklist gleaned from fsis.usda.gov to have handy next time the power goes out.

•Try not to open refrigerator and freezer doors, the cold air will escape.

•If you know the power will be out for an extended period, get ice or dry ice to keep food cold.

•Use a refrigerator-freezer thermometer. In either the refrigerator or freezer, if the temperature is 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.

•Check the packages. If food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below when checked with a food thermometer, you can refreeze it.

•Group foods together in the freezer to help them stay cold longer.

•Keep food on ice in coolers.

•Never taste food to determine whether it's safe. ]]>

Foods to Toss

•Bacteria can grow in these foods that have been warmer than 40 degrees for two hours or more:

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•Meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, yogurt, eggs, leftovers, hot dogs, bacon, lunch meats, pizza, shredded cheeses, casseroles, pasta and pasta sauces.

•Cream-based salad dressings, sauces and soups.

•Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish.

•Pasta salads with creamy or mayonnaise-based dressings.

•Sour cream-based dips.

•Fruits and vegetables that have become slimy or spoiled.


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