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Food and Water Safety After a Hurricane or Flood

Food Safety

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

Throw away food that:

  • may have come in contact with flood or storm water;
  • canned foods that are bulging, opened, or damaged;
  • has an unusual odor, color, or texture;
  • perishable foods (including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and leftovers) that have been above 40°F for 2 hours or more.

Thawed food that contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below can be refrozen or cooked.

If cans have come in contact with floodwater or storm water, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. Relabel the cans with a marker.

Store food safely

While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than 4 hours. Be sure to wear heavy gloves when handling ice.

Water Safety

Listen to and follow public announcements. Local authorities will tell you if tap water is safe to drink or to use for cooking or bathing. If the water is not safe to use, follow local instructions to use bottled water or to boil or disinfect water for cooking, cleaning, or bathing.

How to boil or disinfect water

Hold water at a rolling boil for 1 minute to kill bacteria. If you can't boil water, add 1/8 teaspoon (approximately 0.75 mL) of newly purchased, unscented liquid household bleach per gallon of water. Stir the water well, and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. You can use water-purifying tablets instead of boiling water or using bleach.

For infants, use only pre-prepared canned baby formula. Do not use powdered formulas prepared with treated water. Disinfect children's toys that have come in contact with water. Use a solution of 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water to disinfect the toys. Let toys air dry after cleaning. Some toys, such as stuffed animals and baby toys, cannot be disinfected; they should be discarded.

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