Helena-West Helena and Phillips County missed the brunt of one of the worst ice storms in recent Arkansas past. More than 200,000 Arkansans have been impacted by power outages since Christmas Day and a second round of winter storms appears to be moving in Arkansas' direction.
Many local residents were without electricity from around 5 p.m. Christmas until just after 11 o'clock that same evening. Despite the discomfort of living without lights and heat, the Arkansas Department of Health reports a less obvious problem created by the power outages – the increased risk of food-borne illnesses due to the inability to properly store food at proper temperatures.
According to the ADH, people whose power was out for more than two hours should consider refrigerator contents suspect and if power was out more than four hours, the contents should be considered unsafe. Freezers are more likely to maintain appropriate temperatures than refrigerators. However, they also are a risk if power has been out more than 24 hours.
“Foods most likely to no longer be safe after the outage include chicken or turkey, seafood, any ground meat, any dishes with raw eggs or mayonnaise, any foods with cream and all milk products,” stated Dr. Dirk Haselow, state epidemiologist. “These foods should be discarded. However, all food items are considered at risk.
“Do not trust your sense of smell or taste to determine if the food is safe,” warns Haselow. “Germs can grow on food at levels high enough to cause illness without changing the food's taste.
Report any incidents of food-borne illnesses to http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/epidemiology/Environmental/Documents/ADHEentericCaseReportForm (web) for the Public.pdf or by email at email@example.com. You may also phone 501-280-4364.