Post-disaster food safety
The Department of Public Health and Social Services advises the public to keep food safety in mind during this period of disaster recovery. The following are recommended:
- Perishable foods that may have come in contact with flood or storm water need to be thrown away.
- Canned foods contacting flood or storm water may be kept but must be disinfected and not bulging, opened, or damaged. A disinfecting solution can be made with a mixture of three and half tablespoons of bleach and one gallon of water (or 1 cup of bleach plus 5 gallons of water). Before disinfecting, remove label, wash can, and dip in the disinfecting solution. Permanent marker may be used to relabel the cans.
- Food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps (such as soda bottles), twist caps, flip tops, snap-open, and home canned foods that have been contaminated with floor or storm water cannot be disinfected and thus need to be discarded.
- Food with unusual or unpleasant odor, color, or texture should be discarded.
- Frozen foods that are thawing and still cold may be kept refrigerated at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, or cooked. If ice crystals are present, it may be refrozen.
- If power had been lost for more than 4 hours, throw away meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and other perishable foods.
- When in doubt, throw it out!
Boil water if experiencing water outages, or obtain alternate water source, such as bottled water from an approved source. Do not wash or prepare food, wash hands, make ice, or baby formula with contaminated water, including tap water if experiencing water outage. Additional information may be obtained from U.S. CDC (emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/facts.asp).