With power still out for thousands, Greenwich offers food and water safety tips

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy’s multitude of power outages, the town has offered residents a number of food and water safety tips to abide by during power failure.

A representative from the town’s water supplier, Aquarion, has verified that Greenwich’s water supply is safe to drink. However, If there is any discoloration in the water, it should be boiled for 10 minutes before it is consumed. Home owners with a well water supply that has been affected by flood waters should consider their well water contaminated. Until the flood waters recede, all well water must be boiled for a minimum of 10 minutes before consumption and when flood waters have receded, the water should be disinfected with a chlorine solution by a well driller before it can be regularly consumed again.

Maintaining foods in most freezers should not be a problem for up to three days, provided that the door is closed, the town said. When freezers are in good working condition, thawing will depend on several factors: A full freezer stays cold longer than one partially full and a freezer filled with meat stays cold longer than a freezer filled with baked goods. Additionally, a well-insulated freezer keeps food frozen longer than one with little insulation and the larger the freezer, the longer food stays frozen.

Similarly, if a refrigerator door has been kept closed during the power outage and an accurate thermometer registers a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, the contents of the refrigerator will be generally safe to eat. However, if food items taste sour or smell bad, they should be immediately discarded.

If the temperature of the refrigerator is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit for more than four hours, all perishable items should be discarded or cooked and consumed immediately.

Most refrigerators will maintain safe temperatures for up to 12 hours depending on their fullness. Processed food items as well as uncut fruits and vegetables will last longer. Fish, shellfish, meat and poultry items will spoil quickly so these items should be prepared for consumption immediately. Food items that smell bad or seem to be discolored should be discarded and judgments should be applied for all foods.

Furthermore, after food has been thawed, there are many factors that determine if it is safe or not to consume.

Foods that still contain ice crystals and have been kept at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower for fewer than two days may be safely refrozen but the best practice is to cook the foods for consumption as soon as possible.

When thawing occurs, several things should be considered: Refreeze fruits if they taste and smell good. Fruit that is beginning to ferment is safe to eat, but will have an off-flavor. Such fruit could be used in cooking, but it is not recommended. Vegetables, however, should not be refrozen as bacteria in them multiply rapidly and spoilage may begin before odors develop. Along with frozen dinners, vegetables should either be cooked for consumption, discarded or refrozen only after they have been cooked thoroughly.

Additionally, all stuffed poultry should be discarded and any meat or poultry that has an offensive odor or has a temperature that has exceeded 45 degrees Fahrenheit should be discarded.

Fish and shellfish are extremely perishable and should not be frozen unless ice crystals remain throughout the entire package and it should be noted that seafood may be spoiled, even if it has no offensive odor.

The town recommends, as a general rule, that any food with an offensive or questionable odor should not be consumed and should be discarded immediately.

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