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Don’t let bad food make bad storms worse

Many people in Rowan County were lucky enough not to suffer damage from Hurricane Matthew, but here’s something to keep in mind the next time the weather decides to attack: When in doubt, throw it out — the food in your refrigerator and freezer.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the contents of a refrigerator need to be kept at 40 degrees or below, and the contents of a freezer need to be kept at 0 degrees or below.

Most residential refrigerators can maintain the safe temperature for up to four hours, while a full freezer can hold the required temperature for up to 48 hours (if it’s half full, that drops to 24 hours).

These time estimates are based on people not opening the doors to the appliances during the outage. Using ice blocks, either homemade or store bought, can also help retain the food’s temperature. Try freezing a few milk jugs filled with water as one way to maintain a cool temperature.

For things like produce, the use of extra ice or ice blocks will help preserve their freshness during the outage.

Using ice chests or coolers of ice to keep the less-stocked refrigerator’s contents cool and fresh is also an option that can save people money and stress during and after an outage.

Made with what?

Do you think about where the flavor of your food comes from? Yes, it’s a weird question, but with modern science and constant research, your maple cereal may not have any maple syrup in it at all. It could be just maple sap or bark, or it could be the herb fenugreek, used in Indian cooking.

A story from CBS News says reading labels is important. And you should note that natural doesn’t mean the real thing — like maple syrup. Artificial is another category entirely.

Labels must indicate if the flavor comes from an artificial source and many people don’t care about that. As long as the product tastes good, they’re happy.

For example, many people do not realize that chocolate cake, pudding and cookies may be made with cocoa, not solid chocolate. Still tastes great.

On the other hand, butter cookies have to be made with 100 percent butter. But if it also contains shortening, it must be labeled as “butter-flavored.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in charge of making sure the consumer knows what he or she is getting. Just another reason to read the labels before you buy.

Weird combos

What’s up with all these super-sized, super loaded fast foods these days? We have the Whopperrito, a whopper in a burrito, Mac n’ Cheetos, Pizza Hut’s hot-dog crust pies and KFC’s Double Down. The latest is Pizza Hut’s Grilled Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza, stuffed with mozzarella and cheddar and topped with bread crumbs and melted butter — is the pepperoni not greasy enough?

The Washington Post reports it’s all an effort to bring customers back to fast food. Health conscious people are going to places that offer salads, wraps or other choices. The backlash is outrageous, sometimes wacky creations, belly-busters that are irresistible to some people.

They’ve got to get your attention, so they come up with crazy items that grab headlines.

Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut are all owned by Yum! Brands, so that’s why some ideas seem familiar. Taco Bell took two years to develop the Doritos Locos Tacos and made $1 billion in a year off of it.

It’s all about getting you in the door. Most sales are of the traditional fast-food concoctions, but food traffic makes a huge difference. And the public is hungry for new tastes and flavor combinations.

— Deirdre Parker Smith

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