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Police guard dumpsters full of discarded food at Fred Meyer

February 17, 2021 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — About a dozen police officers guarded dumpsters filled with perishable food outside a Portland, Oregon, Fred Meyer as people attempted to take the items that were discarded when the store lost power.

The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported that on Tuesday employees at a Fred Meyer in the northeast part of the city threw out thousands of items deemed no longer safe for consumption. The store was one of many that lost power following a weekend winter storm. As of Wednesday, more than 150,000 remained in the dark in the greater Portland area.

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In a statement sent to KOIN, Fred Meyer said the food was thrown away “out of an abundance of caution.” The Oregon Health Authority also has requirements for licensed facilities during a power outage in order to prevent food borne illnesses.

Images on social media showed piles of unopened packaged meat, cheese and juice in the store’s dumpsters.

“We appreciate people speaking out against hunger. We get it, throwing away food is never a good thing,” the Fred Meyer statement said. “Unfortunately, some perishable food that requires refrigeration at our Hollywood store was out of temperature for a protracted period of time.”

According to The Oregonian, people began gathering at the dumpster around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Employees called police, but no officers were available at the time.

By 4:30, the crowd near the dumpsters had grown to 20 people an called police again because the feared there may be physical confrontation, the Portland Police Bureau said in a press release Wednesday. About a dozen officers arrived shortly after.

Fred Meyer said it “engaged law enforcement, as the safety of our associates and customers is always our top priority.”

Portland police said the food was unfit for consumption or donation and they tried to explain that, but “no subject in the crowd was willing to have an open dialogue with the officers and continued to shout insults at them and store employees.”

People at the scene said police threatened to arrest them for trespassing as the crowd increased to 50 people.

Eventually, officers left the area and people jumped into the dumpsters to take items.

Police said Fred Meyer employees again called to report people in the crowd moved back onto store property and were confronting employees again.

Police supervisors said they decided that unless there was an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury, police would remain away.