may carry silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical wastes. Filth
and disease-causing bacteria in floodwater will contaminate
food, making it unsafe to eat. Thoroughly inspect any food
left in the house after a flood. Floodwater may have covered
it, dripped on it or seeped into it. Even though some foods
are protected by their containers, if you are in doubt about
the safety of a food, throw it out rather than risk disease.
Use the following guidelines when deciding which foods to
discard and which to save.
containers and packages which have come in contact with
jars and bottles.
of spices, seasonings and flavorings.
grains, rice, sugar and coffee in canisters or bags.
cloth, fiber or cardboard boxes, even if the contents seem
dry. This includes salt, cereals, pasta products, rice and
any "sealed" packages of crackers, cookies or mixes within
a larger paper box.
foods that are dented, bulging, rusty or leaking. Cans which
have been tossed about and are found far from their normal
storage spot. Seams on these cans may have been weakened
or their seals broken, causing contamination or spoilage.
or jelly sealed with paraffin.
with non-sealed, fitted lids, such as cocoa or baking powder.
carbonated beverages. If the cap is crusted with silt, don't
attempt to wash since pressure in bottles may cause an explosion.
or cellophane packages.
fresh fruits and vegetables.
meat, fish and poultry which have been in contact with floodwaters.
in containers with pull-tops, corks or screw caps.
foods that were covered by water which may have been contaminated
with industrial waste, even those foods sealed in unopened
floodwater has entered your freezer or refrigerator,dispose
of all food not sealed in metal cans.
Commercially-canned foods are usually safe after being in flood
waters if the metal can appears undamaged. But discard cans
if they are rusty, creased, dented, crushed, bulging or have
ends that spring in and out. The contents may be contaminated.
DO NOT TASTE. All cans must be washed and sanitized before they
To disinfect cans:
labels. (They harbor bacteria.) Wash cans in strong detergent
solution with a scrub brush. Remove all silt.
scrubbed containers for 15 minutes in cold (60-70 F) chlorine
solution. Household bleaches contain from 2% to 6% chlorine.
The amount of bleach to add to water depends on the percent
chlorine it contains: Volume of bleach Volume of bleach
% chlorine to add to to add to in bleach 1 quart water 1
gallon water 2% 2 teaspoons 2 tablespoons 4% 1 teaspoons
1 tablespoon 6% 1/2 teaspoon 2 teaspoons
containers from solution and air-dry before opening.
safety, thoroughly cook the canned food before eating it.
by Susan Brewer, University of Illinois Extension Food Specialist.
February 1995 Copyright © 1995 by University of Illinois Board
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in
NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in
NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder.