After a power outage, the temperature of food in a fridge is key. (AJC Staff Photo/Curtis Compton)

Fridges after Irma stock danger: USDA food safety tips

If your power is out, manage your fridge, advises the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tropical Storm Irma may have left Atlanta, but its dangers haven’t. For those lacking electricity, every time the fridge or freezer door opens, warm air floods in. Even keeping it closed can only slow the process of warming. Unfortunately it won’t take long, and the contents are going to thaw and melt.

That can lead to health dangers from spoiled food.

Here is some advice, mostly from the USDA:

  • If you have a working fridge thermometer, safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Discard food such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels like it’s actually warm.
  • Don’t taste a food to determine if it’s safe. And “when it doubt, throw it out,” says the USDA.
  • If you have dry ice, 50 pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.
  • As for flood areas, do not eat any food that’s been in contact with flood water, or drink any drinks whose containers could be contaminated by floodwater. Even screwtops, sealed cardboard containers and plastic wrap can be penetrated by floodwater, according to the USDA. Floodwater can be poisoned even if it doesn’t look it.

The USDA also has a Meat and Poultry Hotline for food safety questions, in English and Spanish, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time: 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854); or a live chat at

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