KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - With tens of thousands of people still in the dark Wednesday, many will have to throw away refrigerators full of food.
Yes, it's a waste of money, but if you're not careful, you could end up paying more in doctors bills than it costs to restock your fridge.
On Wednesday, people all across the area have been without power for more than 20 hours. While they wait for the lights to come back on, they've been flooding the Knox County Health Department with questions about food safety.
"They're just wanting to be safe. They want to know how long food is still safe to consume," says Ronnie Nease, Director of Environmental Health. He says the best way to keep your food cold, is to keep the refrigerator doors closed.
"When the electricity comes back on, check the freezer to make sure everything is still frozen. If it is, you're in good shape. On the refrigerator, we need to be concerned about the perishable stuff like the milk, meat products and leftovers."
Nease says to check food with a probe thermometer to make sure it's safe to eat.
"If the temperature is above 41 degrees is what we consider the appropriate temperature, then you need to evaluate whether you throw it away and the saying is, when in doubt, throw it out."
If you decide to risk it, you could pay the price.
"With food borne outbreaks you're going to have diarreha, you'll have an upset stomach, chills it's just like having an intestinal disorder that you will have," says Nease.
And as crews work to get your power back on, the clock on your food is ticking.
"We're getting close to the time where I think everybody is going to need to throw their food out," says Nease.
Food borne outbreaks are especially dangerous for the elderly and the young.
If you want to save your food, make sure it's at 41 degrees or below and pack it on ice in a cooler.