There is a lot of information out there on how to avoid foodborne illness during a power outage. Many people and businesses up and down the east coast are without power today thanks to Sandy. I have read quite a few blogs, twitter and Facebook posts that suggest things like, your food is okay for 12 hours if the door is not opened or it is okay if you cook it first. Both not always true.
It all comes down to time and temperature. Bacteria need time to grow and when the temperatures are more favorable they grow faster. Bacteria that comes from humans, like Staphylococcal Gastroenteritis (30-50% of healthy humans have Staph in their nose) and Norovirus could have been transferred to the food by a family member.
Here are the rules and they are rather simple. If you have a potentially hazardous food, often called TCS food it should not be eaten if it has been held above 41 ° for more than 4 hours. Most potentially hazardous or TCS foods are ones that you commonly think of as perishables. However, a few may surprise you. A full list of potentially hazardous foods can be found on our website here.
If you power comes on and you are not home to check the temperature of the food at its worse then assume the worse and throw it out!
Stay safe and if you have specific questions please feel free to ask here or on Facebook