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Food Safety: During & After Flooding

Originally written by Megan Erickson, former SDSU Extension Nutrition Field Specialist.

In the event of flooding, having a plan in place for food safety is beneficial. Knowing how to determine if food is safe and how to keep food safe will help reduce the potential for food waste and reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Here are some tips to keeping your food safe.

Food Safety Tips

If you know flooding is going to happen, keep an adequate supply of food, water and emergency equipment on hand. For example, here is a list of supplies and tips to start your flood preparation:

  • Canned foods that will feed you (and/or your family) for 4-5 days
  • Hand can opener
  • Fill bathtub and large containers with water. Each person will need a gallon of water per day
  • Camp stove with fuel to operate
  • Flashlights, candles, matches, kerosene lamp
  • Battery-powered radio plus extra batteries
  • First-aid kit

Do not save any of the following foods if they have come in contact with floodwater:

  • Fresh produce
  • Meat, poultry, fish and eggs
  • Containers of nuts, spices, and seasonings
  • Canisters or bags of grains, sugar, salt, coffee and tea
  • Plastic bags of food, even if they are unopened in cardboard boxes, such as pasta, cereal, rice, crackers or mixes
  • Paper, plastic, cloth, cardboard boxes of food
  • Foods in glass jars
  • Jarred foods with waxed cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • Home-canned foods

Is the food in my freezer safe to eat?

How do I disinfect canned food items?

  • Remove labels as paper can harbor dangerous bacteria
  • Use a permanent marker to re-label each canned food item
  • Wipe away any dirt or silt
  • Wash in hot, soapy water
  • Soak for 15 minutes in bleach solution
  • Allow to air dry
  • Use as soon as possible as some containers may rust

Sanitizing Solution

1 Tablespoon bleach (5.25% concentration) + 1 gallon water

Remember, when in doubt, throw it out!

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