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Food safety stressed after prolonged power outages

MORRIS – Throwing away food is hard for the Morgan family, who live on the east side of Morris.
But having after no power for more than 36 hours, Mike and Carolyn, along with their two daughters, were forced Wednesday to dispose of all food from their refrigerator and freezer.

"All the food in the freezer was defrosted and we still don't have power, so we are going to be safe and not eat it," Carolyn said.

Carolyn, who is pregnant and hasn't been able to work due to illness, said the young family relies on her husband's Social Security disability and his part-time job.

"I'm feeling better, so I will be going back to work next week, but we lost about $200 in food total," she said. "I'm unsure how I will replace it with the other bills we have."

Ongoing power outages in Grundy County – a result of powerful storms Monday that initially knocked out more than 90 percent of the power in Morris – mean many are having to toss food that spoiled. ComEd has worked since late Monday night to restore power to the hundreds of thousands of customers throughout Illinois lost power from the storm. ComEd has said it could be Thursday night or later before power is fully restored to the community.

In a news release sent Wednesday, the Grundy County Health Department said a refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened, and a full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours, 24 hours if half full.

"If you have questions about the safety of your food, you can contact the Environmental Health Division of the Grundy County Health Department for guidance," the news release states. "We believe, when in doubt, throw out."

Lori Sandgren, operations manager at We Care of Grundy County, said the organization was able to keep its freezers running with the aid of Colin Monk, who delivered a generator to power freezers until electricity was restored.

Sandgren said those without power who may need meat to cook on the grill can stop in to see what is available. Clients who have had power restored, but aren't scheduled for a while to get monthly food, can come in to get food assistance until the Northern Illinois Food Bank truck comes July 9 to Mazon City Park.

It's not just families who had to throw out food: Many restaurants also lost all their food.

"We've thrown everything out," said Nathan Pappas, owner of the Morris McDonald's. "Food quality is a priority for us, and I want people to get the freshest food possible."

He said the restaurant threw out food regardless of the date, or if the temperature dipped below safe levels.

"We're starting from scratch," he said Wednesday afternoon. "I can't guarantee temperatures while the power was out, so we're waiting for our truck to get here so we can run through some food safety checks and get opened back up."

Sammy Kareman, chef at Maria's Ristorante & Pizzeria in Morris, said Maria's threw out all the refrigerated and frozen food on the premises and started fresh.

"We were only able to open serving pizza on Wednesday at lunch because we were able to make those fresh ingredients this morning. Our restaurant remained closed until we could get food deliveries of fresh food to be served this evening," Kareman said Wednesday.

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