Wondering what you should eat first in that refrigerator that Superstorm Sandy left powerless?

If you have some kind of alternative power source like a wood stove or outdoor grill, go ahead and eat those eggs for brunch because they will need to be tossed soon – if it’s not already too late.

“The general rule with eggs is once they’ve been refrigerated, you keep them refrigerated,” said Jason Bolton, an assistant professor for food safety from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

You could have ice cream for dessert, but by now, if your power’s been out a few hours, it’s probably already soupy – and that means unsafe.

“You really don’t want to (eat it) because milk in general is a great incubator for so many things,” Bolton said. “All it takes is you take a couple of scoops out of it, the ice cream scoop wasn’t all that clean and then you’ve got the growth of something really gross there – or dangerous.”

Cheese will last longer than milk or ice cream, but don’t eat it if it’s been sitting in a powerless refrigerator for two or three days.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends tossing all perishable foods – meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers – after the power has been off for four hours or more.
Bolton recommends following the old adage, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

With meat and leftovers, unless you have a thermometer in your refrigerator that can tell you for sure what the temperature is inside, throw it out. A safe temperature in the refrigerator is 40 degrees or colder. Unless you have a thermometer, there are just too many variables in age and model of refrigerators and other factors to make it safe.

Don’t rely on touch “because there’s really just no way to tell,” Bolton said.

“There are microorganisms out there, especially the pathogenic ones, that can produce toxins and things like that that are not always destroyed during cooking. It’s just not worth it at this point.”

When it comes to the freezer, items that still have ice crystals on or in the food are safe to re-freeze. But if they’re fully thawed, even if they are cool to the touch, they are not necessarily safe.

Be sure to limit the number of times you open and close your refrigerator and freezer doors while the power is out. Every time you open a door, you shorten the life of the food inside.

Other tips from the CDC:

— Throw away food that may have come into contact with flood or storm water.

— Throw away food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.

— Freezers left unopened and full will keep food safe for 48 hours. Cut that time in half if the freezer is only half full.

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