Food safety in flooding

Dear Editor,

Handling and preparing food is always important in preventing foodborne illness. But the occurrence of a flood may cause damage that could increase the risk of food borne illness.

Follow these safe food handling tips during and after a flood.



After a flood, just like the one we had a few days ago: CYCLONE GITA,  the best thing to do is throw away any food (including packaged food) that have been contaminated  by the flood waters. Even if the food appears to be dry  it still may not be safe.

Throw away all meats, fish, poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables that have come in contact with food waters. As well, food in glass or plastic jars and bottles may be unsafe as the flood water may seep into the lids of these containers and may contaminate the food.

Inspect food carefully after a flood. Contamination may occur if bacteria in flood water  come in contact with food.

Only food in sealed, airtight metal cans is entirely safe, however, the cans must be carefully cleaned and disinfected before use.

Cans can be cleaned by washing them in a strong detergent solution and then immerse them in a mild bleach  and water solution (5 ml/1 tsp , bleach per 750 ml/3 cups  water), for 2 minutes  to prevent potential contamination  when the can is opened.

Cans that are bulging or damaged  are considered unsafe  and unusable and  should be thrown away immediately.

Home canned foods in glass containers that have come in contact with flood water are not safe. Throw away the food and the flat part of the lid. The empty jars can be sterilized for future use.



It is best to sanitize  all equipment that have come in contact  with flood water in very hot water, 77 C (170 F) 

Sanitize wood or plastics cutting boards and your counter top with a mild bleach solution (5ml/1 tsp bleach per 750 1/3 cups water.

Slicing or grinding  machines must also be cleaned and disinfected  before you use them to insure that no bacteria remain on the surface of the equipment.




The most important final step is to allow surfaces  and equipment to air drying when putting away clean equipment.

Do not lay one wet cutting board  on top of another. Bacteria may multiply in trapped water.

Allow all utensils and dishes to air dry before they are put away.

If you suspect that your equipment and utensils have become contaminated  during storage,  clean and sanitize them  just prior to use, even though you may have already cleaned, or sanitize them.

Note. Part of this article have been taken out of a Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.


Orlando Huaman 

Food technologist and freelance writer


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