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March 6, 2013

Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has advice for Virginians who lost power during the March 6 snow storm: throw out the contents of your refrigerator if the power has been out for more than four hours and check food in your freezer carefully to be sure it’s still safe to eat. “We have a lot of tips for consumers,” said VDACS Commissioner Matthew J. Lohr. “But here is the main one: when in doubt, throw it out.” 

VDACS’ food safety and meat and poultry inspectors will inspect food processors, grocery stores and other retail stores in affected areas to ensure they handle food safely. However, individual consumers also need to be aware that the potential for foodborne illness at home grows every day that the power is out.  

VDACS offers the following basic tips for keeping food safe to eat during a power outage:

Once power is restored, consumers will need to determine whether their food is safe to eat using these guidelines:

Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk and eggs that are not kept adequately refrigerated or frozen may cause illness if consumed, even when they are thoroughly cooked. Never taste food to determine its safety, and always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

The following foods are safe to consume even if they have been held above 40° F for two hours or more: hard cheeses, processed cheeses, grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, jelly, relish, mustard, olives, pickles, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, fruit pies, bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, fruit juices, canned fruits, whole fresh fruits and raw vegetables except cut greens and cut tomatoes.

For more detailed information regarding which food items are safe to consume after an extended power outage, click here for a website or here for fact sheets.

VDACS posts all of its news releases on Facebook and Twitter. To receive immediate updates, follow us on Twitter@VaAgriculture or like us on

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