Food in containers to be transported to shelters by Food Recovery Network

Keeping Foods Safe

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Ulder J. Tillman urged residents who remain without power to take steps to ensure that food left in the refrigerator and freezer is safe.

“It is important for everyone who remains without power to determine if food is safe to eat and reduce the risk of food borne illness,” said Tillman.

Food service facilities are reminded that they must remain closed if they are without power. For questions concerning food service facilities, please call 240-777-3840. Health inspectors will be visiting hard-hit areas today to assist with questions and concerns.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service, meat, poultry, fish and eggs should be refrigerated at 40° F and frozen food at or below 0° F, which may be difficult with a prolonged power outage.

* Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. A refrigerator will only keep food safely cold for about four hours if it is unopened.
* A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.
* Obtain dry ice or block ice to keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if there is a prolonged power outage. Residents should check with local retailers for ice supplies.
* Digital, dial or instant-read thermometers and appliance thermometers will help determine if the food is at safe temperatures. The refrigerator temperature should be at 40°F or below; the freezer, 0°or lower.
* To be sure a particular food is cold enough; take its temperature with a food thermometer.
* Never taste food to determine its safety!
* Food may be safely refrozen if the food it still contains ice crystal or is at 40°F or below. Evaluate each food item separately. Be sure to discard any items in either the freezer or the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.
* Food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, soft cheeses, butter and leftover cooked meats, casseroles and pizza should be thrown out if they have been held above 40° F for over two hours.

For a complete chart and when to save and when to throw out certain foods, please visit the USDA’s food safety website at


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