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NEW YORK - Supermarkets across the Midwest and Northeast United States were forced to throw away mountains of spoiled vegetables, meats and dairy products due to the largest power outage in North America's history that began on Thursday. Others counted on backup generators to prevent product loss.
"We have to throw out any kind of product whose integrity could have been compromised," Rich Savner, spokesman for Pathmark Stores Inc., told Reuters on Friday. Pathmark operates more than 100 supermarkets in the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas.
Pathmark said it used 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of dry ice overnight to prevent ice cream, milk and meat from wasting. Most grocers carry insurance for such spoilage, but it cannot compensate for lost customers, sales and profits.
Some New York City supermarkets immediately closed their stores on Thursday to help maintain a cool temperature inside. Others stayed open and guided customers through the stores one at a time by flashlight, providing non-perishable staples such as water, bread and canned foods.
Stop & Shop spokeswoman Faith Weiner told Reuters on Friday her Northeast grocery chain was carefully going through its 340 stores on to see what had to be thrown away. She said the company had dispatched refrigerated trucks to some stores, which "hopefully helped minimize the damage."
About 25 Meijer supermarkets in the Detroit area were operating with generators on Friday and another six were closed, said John Zimmerman, a spokesman for the family-owned chain. He added that the affected Meijer stores were trying to move perishable foods to community food banks.
The nation's largest hunger relief organization, America's Second Harvest, said it feared up to 15 million pounds (6.8 million kg) of perishable food had spoiled at its affiliates in New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio.
ShopperTrak, a Chicago consulting firm that tracks retail sales trends, estimated Friday that the blackouts cost retailers in the Northeast $30 million, according to a Dow Jones newswire report.