Food gone bad: Hours without power leads RGV resident to throw away refrigerator food for safety

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Many Rio Grande Valley residents affected by the power outages had to throw away food. The Hidalgo County Health Department shares some tips on how to spot spoiled food.

Like so many who lost power, Renee Sanchez Leal of Edinburg had to throw out all of the food in her refrigerator when she lost power during the winter storm.

“When the power went out, it was out for about 12 hours. I was not about to take chances. I didn’t know what the hospital situation was, so I wasn’t going to consume food and let anyone in my house do that. I didn’t want food poisoning in the middle of a pandemic and a winter storm.”

She says it was frustrating to throw away about $150 worth of food, but Hidalgo County Chief Administrative Officer Eddie Olivarez says that is the right move.

“I threw out a gallon of milk, and the thing is I’m lactose intolerant so I have to drink specific milk right? So that got tossed. The cheeses the deli meats, the peanut butter. I didn’t want E. coli. Everything got tossed.”

Olivarez says you need to get rid of food if the temperature in the freezer went above 35 degrees.

“In the refrigerator, anything that has a quick expiration date. There’s some cheese products that have quick expiration dates, get rid of those. Any poultry, any meat products, anything that may have spoiled. Eggs are very concerning. Milk is very concerning especially with children. If it doesn’t look right, if it doesn’t smell right, don’t eat it.”

Olivarez added if a can is swollen, or the top is popped up, it should also be thrown away.

“Unfortunately there’s going to be many, many pounds of food that’s going to be discarded.”

Olivarez mention that cooking the food does not remove the contamination.

Sanchez-Leal says she’ll be better prepared in the future.

Officials added to also be aware of flea markets and street-side vendors because there are some who may see an opportunity to make money off rotten meat or poultry.

Olivarez recommended to not feed any food that has gone bad to pets.  

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