USDA advises what to do if power goes out Share This: UPI 2/9/2013 2:48:15 AM WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- To prepare for the storm in the Northeast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued recommendations to help minimize the potential for food-borne illnesses. "Major winter storms that bring heavy snow, ice and strong winds can impact food safety if the power goes out," Al Almanza, USDA administrator of food safety and inspection, said in a statement. Almanza said to prepare for a possible weather emergency: -- Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer to determine the safety of the food if the power goes out. -- Make sure the freezer is at 0 degrees F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 degrees F or below. -- Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers. -- Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately to keep them at a safe temperature longer. -- Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice could be purchased. -- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold. Purchase or make ice cubes. Freeze gel packs for use in coolers. -- Group food together in the freezer to keep it cold longer. -- Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding. Should the power go out: -- Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed. -- The refrigerator should keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours -- 24 hours if it is half full -- if the door remains closed. -- Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power. -- Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees F or below when checked with a food thermometer.