By John Ostakovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — With power crews scrambling to reconnect thousands still blacked out by Hurricane Sandy, refrigerated and frozen food is at risk.

And it can become a risk to those who consume it haphazardly.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says you only have about four hours’ grace on stuff in the fridge, but items in the freezer could last longer (see details below).

Karen Muldoon-Geus of Peco echoes those figures.

“If your freezer is full, you can typically go a couple of days,” she tells KYW Newsradio.  “I mean, the more things are in your freezer, the colder it stays.”

Peco has been trying to reconnect critical customers like police departments first, then working on the largest outages.

PSEG works on transmission lines first, according to its president and CEO, Ralph Izzo.

“Until the switching stations feed the substations, we don’t have the ability to say, oh, gee, Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s home is out of service due to the tree on their line,” he explains.

PSEG has water and ice available at 501 High St. in Burlington, NJ.

The following information comes from the Pa. Department of Agriculture….

Agriculture Secretary George Greig today reminded Pennsylvanians to take food safety precautions during flooding and power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“During and after a power outage or flood, simple steps like monitoring the temperature and condition of food can make the difference between safe food and dangerous food,” said Greig. “Pennsylvanians should follow basic food safety tips to ensure food is safe to eat.”

“Remember: when in doubt, throw it out.”

During flooding:
”    Drink only bottled water.
”    Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils exposed to flood water with hot soapy water. Products are safe to use if they have not come in contact with flood water.

Discard these items if submerged in floodwater:
”    Home-canned foods;
”    All foods in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, cellophane or cloth;
”    Meat, poultry, eggs or fish;
”    Spices, seasonings, extracts, flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples in canisters;
”    Unopened jars with waxed cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise and salad dressing;
”    Jarred reserves sealed with paraffin;
”    Wooden cutting boards;
”    Plastic utensils; and
”    Baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Save these items if submerged in floodwater:
”    Commercially canned foods that came into contact with flood water and have been properly cleaned — Clean them by labeling cans with the name of food in permanent marker; removing labels; washing cans in water containing detergent; soaking cans for at least one minute in chlorine solution; rinsing in clean, cool water; and placing on sides to dry (do not stack cans).
”    Dishes and glassware — Sanitize by boiling in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of one teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water.

During power outages:
”    Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain cold temperatures. Each time you open the door, temperatures rise significantly.
”    Refrigerators will keep food safely cold for about four hours if unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half-full and the door remains closed).
”    You can safely refreeze items that still contain ice crystals or are at 40 degrees or below.
”    Never taste food to determine its safety.
”    Use dry or block ice to keep refrigerators and freezers as cold as possible during prolonged power outages. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep cold an 18-cubic-foot, full freezer for two days.
”    If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer or food thermometer. If the food still contains ice crystals or is at 40 degrees or below, the food is safe.
”    If there is no thermometer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
”    Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after four hours without power.

== End of Pa. Department of Agriculture press release ==

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