As a result of flooded conditions in homes, large quantities of foodstuffs may be submerged in flood water or sewerage backflow. While efforts may be made to salvage certain of these foods which have been contaminated, many items cannot be safely salvaged and should be destroyed. The following precautions are offered as a guide in the salvaging of flood-contaminated foods and containers. |
As a general rule, food should not be salvaged unless it is in a container that protects it and is one which can be thoroughly cleaned with soap and water and sterilized with boiling water or chlorine. Since paper, cardboard, wood, and most plastic food containers are not waterproof, foods in such containers which have been under flood water should be destroyed.
Throw out foods needing refrigeration if the refrigerator has been out for more than six hours. Don't refreeze frozen foods which have thawed. Throw them out if they've been thawed for more than four hours.
Since seepage can carry harmful bacteria into all but airtight containers, the contents of crown-capped bottles, screw-top glass containers (including canned foods in glass jars) should be destroyed. Sealed metal cans, if punctured, bulging, or leaking, are unsafe.
If airtight cans are in good condition, they can be salvaged, but they must be carefully cleaned and disinfected before using the contents.
Follow this procedure:
1. Remove labels. Keep the same kinds of foods together or mark them in a way that will enable you to identify them after disinfecting. Colored crayon or adhesive tape may be used. 2. Wash cans in warm water containing soap or detergent. 3. Soak the cans for at least one minute in a disinfecting chlorine solution made by mixing four tablespoons of liquid, unscented, chlorine laundry bleach with two gallons of water. Rinse in clean, cool water. 4. Glass jars must be discarded because filth can get up under the lip of the lid. The National Food Processors Association feels confident that discarding commercially processed foods in glass jars and bottles is in the consumers' best interests. 5. Plastic cookware, utensils, plates, dishes and cups and wooden utensils and bowls cannot be disinfected if exposed to flood water. Plastic baby bottles and nipples, Tupperware, and other plastic containers must be disposed of also. 6. Garden produce that has been exposed to flood water is not safe to eat. Dispose of the produce – even root crops. We can only assume that all floodwater has the potential to carry fecal waste. 7. Home-canned foods are not safe to eat if they have been exposed to flood water. The food should be discarded and the jar rings cleaned and disinfected as above. The flats should be discarded.
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