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Food safety precautions urged during power outages

State health officials are urging Minnesotans who've experienced weather-related power outages to take food safety precautions.

Food in refrigerators and freezers can become spoiled if the power goes out and may cause illness if eaten, officials said.

"Do not trust your eyes or sense of smell to determine if food has gone bad," said Aggie Leitheiser, assistant commissioner of health.

Food can be unsafe to eat even if it doesn't look or smell spoiled, she said. "The old adage applies: When in doubt, throw it out."

The Health Department issued this advice for households without power:

n Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. Refrigerators will keep food cold for about four hours when left unopened. A full freezer will held the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours for a freezer that's half full) if the door remains closed.

n If food stored in the refrigerator has been held above 41 degrees F for more than four hours, throw it away.

n If food stored in the freezer has thawed but is still below 41 degrees F, it can be refrozen. Although the quality may be compromised, it should remain safe to eat.