Healthy Children - October 2017

Keep Food and Water Safe After a Disaster or Emergency

If you are in a disaster or emergency, it’s important that you take steps to prevent illness from unsafe food and water.

After A Disaster:

Food: Throw away food that may have come in contact with flood or storm water; perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages; and those with an unusual order, color, or texture.  Unsafe food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal.  When in doubt, throw it out.

Water: Do not use water you suspect or have been told is contaminated to wash dishes, brush your teeth, wash and prepare food, wash your hands, make ice, or make baby formula.  Safe water for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene includes bottled, boiled, or recommendations for boiling or treating water in your area.



Identify and throw away food that may not be safe to eat

Do the following with food and containers that may have had contact with flood or storm water.

Throw away the following foods:

  • Food that has an unusual order, color, or texture. When in doubt, throw it out.
  • Perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more.
  • Food not in packages or cans.
  • Canned foods or food containers that are bulging, opened, or damaged. Throw away the food if the container spurts liquid or foam when you open it or the food inside is discolored, is moldy, or smells bad.
  • Packaged food: Throw away food containers with screw-caps, snap-lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops, and snap-open, and home-canned foods because they cannot be disinfected. Throw away food in cardboard containers, including juice/milk/baby formula boxes.

How to reuse commercially prepared cans and retort pouches (like flexible, shelf-stable juice and seafood packages):

  • Remove labels if they are removable.
  • Brush or wipe away dirt or silt.
  • Wash cans and pouches with soap and water, using hot water if available.
  • Rinse cans and pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available.
  • Sanitize cans and pouches in one of two ways. 1.) Place them in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz./250 mL) of unscented household bleach in 5 gallons of water for 15 minutes. OR 2.) Submerge in pot of water, bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 2 minutes.
  • Re-label cans or pouches with a marker and include expiration date.
  • Use food in reconditioned cans or pouches as soon as possible

Thaw food that contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked.  Freezers, if left unopened and full during a power outage, will keep food safe for 48 hours (24 hours if half full).

Store food safely

  • While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.