Fridge cleaning after outage: Ditch the cut fruit, shredded cheese
With power out to well over a million households at the height of damage from this week's tropical storm, cleanup continues both outside and inside for New Jersey residents.
A refrigerator will keep food safe for up to 4 hours when left closed during a power outage, according to food safety resources from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A full freezer will hold a safe temperature for roughly 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed), also according to the USDA.
Federal officials recommend after four hours without power, throw out refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers.
As for frozen items, food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40°F or below — however, its quality may suffer.
Never taste food to determine its safety and "when in doubt, throw it out," according to USDA officials.
Among items to throw away after a few hours without power to a fridge:
- Cut fruit
- Cut vegetables
- Deli meat
- Raw meat, poultry, fish, seafood
- Cooked leftovers (incl. proteins)
- Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes
- Pizza with any topping
- Soft or shredded cheese
- Milk, yogurt, soy milk, sour cream
- Opened baby formula
- Ice cream
- Open creamy-based dressings
- Casseroles, soups, stews
- Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged
- Cooked Vegetables, cooked Discard
- Commercial garlic in oil
- Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish (when kept above 50 °F for more than 8 hrs)
Items that are salvageable include:
- Fresh, uncut vegetables and fruit
- Butter, margarine
- Hard or processed cheese
- Open vinegar-based dressings
- Worcestershire, soy, BBQ sauces
The following freezer items can be saved when it still contains ice crystals and feels cold as if refrigerated:
- Frozen meat, poultry, fish
- Frozen waffles, bagels, pancakes
- Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)
Frozen items that thawed and were kept above 40°F for more than 2 hours need to be tossed:
- Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese filling
- Frozen meal, entree, specialty item (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie, convenience foods)