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At this writing, the Mid-Atlantic states are preparing for Hurricane Florence to reach landfall. Say you’re not evacuating, instead staying in your home, and you lose power in the storm. How long can you count on the food in your refrigerator?

Fortunately, Accuweather offers some valuable information in this short and timely column, “If a hurricane knocks out power, is your refrigerated food still safe to eat?” First off, make sure your fridge is chilled to at least 40 degrees F: “A refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below will keep most food safe for consumption.” Illness-causing bacteria can grow rapidly at temperatures higher than 40 degrees. To be on the safe side, if your refrigerator doesn’t have an internal thermometer, buy an appliance thermometer and keep it in the fridge to make sure it stays cool enough. To help keep the cooler temperature, only open the fridge unless absolutely necessary: “An unopened refrigerator keeps food cold for about four hours.”

Accuweather reports that according to the USDA, “Food is still considered safe if, after the power comes back on, the refrigerator’s temperature is still 40 F.” But once the temperature goes above 40 F, that food should not be eaten after two hours. To help keep your food fresh, you can also stash ice in your washer or bathtub for a makeshift cooler.

Hopefully, your larder is also stocked with food and supplies that don’t need refrigeration, like bottled water, granola bars, peanut butter, cereal, and dried fruit. But after four hours without power, the USDA suggests that you toss the following: “meat, soft cheeses, eggs, leftover foods, deli items, milk, fish and poultry.”

Stay safe, everybody.

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