BREWER — In North Brewer Thursday, Ron Pelletier spent a sleepless night at the Paradis Supermarket, hoping the ice storm outside would not spoil the store’s perishable foods.
The manager had to turn away scores of residents, many of whom worried about the effect the power loss would have on their own freezers.
“I feel bad,” Pelletier said Friday afternoon. “People want food and water. I think everybody’s looking at their freezers and worried about having to dump everything out.”
To protect their food, residents should rely on a combination of common sense and watchfulness, according to food safety officials.
Lynda Garnett, a volunteer with the Bangor area chapter of the American Red Cross, said residents should turn to the obvious: Bring the ice and snow inside and put it in the freezer. Or do the reverse: Take the chicken wings and ground beef and pack it in a snowbank.
According to the United States Dairy Association, most refrigerated items should be discarded if power has been lost for more than a few hours. Freezers will be more thaw-resistant. A full free-standing freezer will stay at freezing temperature about two days; a half-full freezer about one day.
For those worried about the food in their freezers, the USDA offers the following tips:
If your freezer is not full, group packages together so they form an “igloo” protecting each other.
Keep the freezer closed. Keep what cold air you have inside.
Most meat and dairy products can be refrozen if they still contain ice crystals and feel as cold as if they were refrigerated. They should be discarded, however, if they’ve been thawed for more than two hours.
Both refrigerated and frozen goods can be kept safe through the use of dry and block ice.
Most importantly, USDA officials said people should never taste food to determine its safety. Some foods that look and smell edible may have bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses if they’ve been at room temperature more than two hours. Some types produce toxins which are not destroyed by cooking and can cause illnesses.
For food-related businesses affected by the power outage, Friday remained a waiting game.
Pelletier said he hadn’t slept in more than 24 hours. Instead, as trees snapped and blue power arcs crackled outside the store window Thursday night, he tried to maintain cool inside.
Next door at the Brewer Cafe, employees were struggling to protect the $20,000 worth of stock slowly thawing in its freezers.
The cafe opened all of its doors in the hopes of keeping its stock as cold as possible, while Paradis unloaded its meat and poultry onto a refrigerator truck.