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Preventing Foodborne Illnesses After a Power Outage

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is advising people who have lost power to take food safety precautions at home.

Food safety tips when the power goes out

- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours if it is unopened. - A full freezer will keep the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. - To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, use generators, grills, and similar items outdoors only. Generators should be used at least 20 feet away from your home.

Food safety tips for when power is restored

- Throw out perishable food (such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for four hours or more. Perishable foods that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked. - When in doubt, throw it out! - If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, check the temperature when the power comes back on. If the freezer thermometer reads 40 F or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen. - If you don't know the temperature in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. You can't rely on appearance or odor. If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.

Know the Symptoms of foodborne illnesses

Consuming dangerous foodborne bacteria will usually cause illness within one to three days of eating the contaminated food. However, sickness can also occur within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later. Although most people will recover from a foodborne illness within a short period of time, some people can develop chronic, severe, or even life-threatening health problems. Foodborne illness can sometimes be confused with other illnesses that have similar symptoms. The symptoms of foodborne illness can include: vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain; flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, and body ache. If you think that you or a family member has a foodborne illness, contact your healthcare provider immediately.

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