With the East Coast bracing for the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, an estimated eight to 10 million people are expected to lose power. And with prolonged power outages come serious concerns about food safety.
"It is important to keep our food safe when the power goes out to prevent our food from spoiling, which can put us at higher risk for food borne illness," Toby Smithson, RD, founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells HuffPost in an email. "Salmonella is the most common problem, but E. Coli with ground beef can be dangerous, as well as others."
According to FoodSafety.gov, the most important thing is to keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed. If they stay sealed, your fridge can keep food cold for about four hours, and a full freezer for about 48 hours (24 hours if it's half full).
For a full list of tips on food safety in the event of a power outage, including preparations to take ahead of time and precautions after an outage occurs, click over to HuffPost Taste.
But what do you really need to throw out? The general rule of thumb, according to FoodSafety.gov, is to discard any perishables that have been stored above 40 degrees F for more than two hours, no matter what their appearance or odor (and never taste the food). "Words to live by with food safety concerns are, 'When in doubt, throw it out,'" Smithson says. And if you're concerned about the wasted money? "Your health is most important," she adds. "You can lose a lot more money from becoming ill (missed work time, medication costs, doctor visit costs) by consuming spoiled food than the cost of the food itself."
Still confused? FoodSafety.gov advises checking each item individually to see if it's safe to eat. We put together some of the information from their chart on what to save and what to throw out from your refrigerator. Click over to them for the full list, and for the list of what to keep and what to toss from your freezer.