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Use Precaution When Handling Food From Flooded Homes

Posted: November 14, 2011

Flood waters from Tropical Storm Lee may have contained potentially dangerous materials, such as fecal matter from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural runoff and chemicals from industrial areas.

Flood waters from Tropical Storm Lee may have contained potentially dangerous materials, such as fecal matter from overflowing sewage systems, agricultural runoff and chemicals from industrial areas. So if the contaminated water came into contact with food it could jeopardize the safety of your food. Eating or drinking anything contaminated by flood water can cause diarrheal disease. Below are some food safety tips from Ohio State University extension that will help prevent foodborne illness when floods occur.
     Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water. When in Doubt, Throw it Out!
     Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops, and crimped caps. Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home-canned foods if they have come in contact with flood water, because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
     Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener. Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved if you do the following:
     * Remove labels. Use a permanent marker to immediately re-label each can.
     * Wash the cans in a strong detergent solution with a scrub brush to remove all silt.
     * Immerse scrubbed containers completely in a lukewarm solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water for one minute.
     * Remove containers from the chlorine solution. Allow to air-dry before opening. Re-label with the permanent marker, if necessary. Use as soon as possible because containers may rust.
     * If it looks or smells wrong when you open a can or jar, discard it.
     Glass, ceramic and china dishes, metal and glass cookware, glass baby bottles and empty canning jars can be saved in the following way:
     * Thoroughly wash them in a strong detergent solution, removing all filth and mud.
     * Immerse washed china and glass dishes in a chlorine solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water for one minute.
     * Disinfect metal pots, pans and utensils by boiling in water for 10 minutes.
     Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.

Karen Thomas is a family and consumer sciences educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension of Lackawanna County.