that has come in contact with floodwaters is generally unsafe
to eat. Floodwaters usually carry a high load of bacteria
and filth with them, and may contain oil or chemical wastes
as well. With the exception of canned foods and some produce,
most food touched by floodwaters should be discarded.
safety of garden produce depends upon the type of flooding
and type of produce. Follow the guidelines at right, which
also cover refrigeration and freezer concerns when the power
is out. And remember: When in doubt, throw it out.
produce, meat, poultry, fish and eggs.
containers and packages.
unopened glass jars that have cardboard lid liners, such
as mayonnaise or salad dressing.
unopened, home-canned jars with broken seals. To check seal,
remove ring and test the flat lid with fingertips. If the
lid lifts off easily, discard the food.
food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, cellophane or cloth.
seasonings and extracts, flour, sugar and other staples
that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted.
fruits, vegetables, and unopened canned goods and glass jars
of food can be salvaged. Sanitizing, and in some cases, cooking
is necessary for safe use.
sanitize cans and glass jars of food:
contents on can or jar lid with indelible ink.
labels. Paper can harbor dangerous bacteria.
jars and cans in a strong detergent solution with a scrub
containers for 10 minutes in a solution of 2 tablespoons
chlorine bleach per gallon of room temperature water.
containers to air dry before opening.
fruits should be washed, sanitized with a light bleach solution
(see above) and peeled before eating.
carrots, apples and other firm fruits should be sanitized,
peeled, if possible, and cooked before eating. Do not eat
raw fruit or vegetables, even if they have been sanitized.
garden produce may be salvaged. Sanitizing, peeling and cooking
is recommended. Follow these guidelines:
the floodwater contained waste from septic tanks, sewage
lagoons or a pasture, your garden will take about a month
to become clean. Don't eat or preserve food during this
if your local health department will test the garden soil
for harmful bacteria. It may be able to determine whether
immature root crops are safe.
leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage, as well
as soft berries. These are highly susceptible to bacterial
contamination. Silt and other contaminants may be difficult
to remove from them.
beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers and summer squash in water.
Then soak in a weak chlorine solution of 2 tablespoons chlorine
bleach to a gallon of water. Peel and cook them thoroughly
underground vegetables such as carrots and potatoes, wash
in water and sanitize as above. Peel and cook them thoroughly
with a protected fruit or impervious outer skin, such as
peas, melons, eggplant, sweet corn or winter squash, should
be washed and disinfected before the outer shell, skin or
husk is removed. Then shell, peel or husk the produce and
cook if possible.
electricity is off to the refrigerator or freezer, follow
refrigerated meats, seafood, milk, soft cheese, eggs, prepared
foods and cookie doughs if they have been kept above 40
degrees F. for over two hours. Also discard thawed items
that have warmed above 40 degrees F., with the exception
of breads and plain cakes.
any refrigerated items that turn moldy or have an unusual
odor or appearance.
partially or completely frozen foods.
but fully thawed, uncooked meat, fish or poultry should
be checked for off-odor. If there is none, cook and eat
or cook and refreeze.
combination dishes such as stews, casseroles and meat pies
if they are thawed.
thawed (but cold) juices, baked goods and dairy items such
as cream, cheese and butter.
not refreeze thawed vegetables unless ice crystals remain.
Cook and use them if there are no off-odors.
not too late, prevent floodwater from coming into contact
with food by:
refrigerators and freezers by placing cement blocks under
food from low cabinets.
canned goods and other food stored in the basement to the
Your county family living agent, your local emergency government office, the American Red Cross, the Federal Emergency Management Agency
"Repairing Your Flooded Home," the American Red Cross/Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1992.
"Management of Food for Emergencies," (B3045);
"Quick Consumer Guide to Safe Food Handling," (BG248);
"When the Home Freezer Stops," (B2837);
"Keeping Food Safe," (B3474).
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