When the power is out, the doctor tells us how to know what food to keep - or pitch

Many of us have dealt with way too many power outages due to all the summer storms. So what's the rule on food safety after you've lost power?

If the lights go out with a freezer full of food that can go bad, how do you know what's safe to hang onto? The doctor weighs in.

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Baruch Fertel says that during a power outage, don't overlook the significance of food safety. 
"Once the temperatures are not at the appropriate cold level, it provides an ideal medium for viruses, for bacteria to replicate and then one can get a foodborne illness, sometimes called a diarrheal illness and you could get very sick," he said.

So, what’s okay to keep and what should be tossed? According to the FDA, food is safe in a closed refrigerator for about four hours.

Food can also be kept safely up to twenty-four hours in a half-full freezer, and for 48 hours in a full freezer – provided it hasn’t been opened. do not open that door and let any cold air out.

Items are safe to re-freeze if they have icicles, or are 40 degrees or less. However, Fertel says if there’s any doubt – throw it out.

"If it doesn’t look right, if it doesn’t smell right, don’t do it. don’t eat it. don’t take chances," he said. "Perishable items, things like meat, dairy products, cut up fruit, leftovers – if the power’s out, throw it out."

If your fridge has been without power for four hours or more, any meats, soft cheeses or creamed-based dishes or dressings might have to go.

Condiments like ketchup, mustard, or jelly should be okay.

FoodSafety.gov offers very specific advice about what to keep and what to toss.