After a natural disaster, food and water may not be safe to use. The Division of Environmental Health of the Department of Public Health and Social Services recommends the following steps to keep your food and water safe:
- Throw out perishable food (i.e. meat, fish, eggs, milk, cut melons, cut tomatoes, cut leafy greens, sprouts, leftovers) in your refrigerator when the power has been off for four hours or more.
- Thawed frozen food that still contains ice crystals can be refrozen or cooked immediately.
- Throw out these foods and containers that may have had contact with flood or storm water:
- Food with unusual odor, color, or texture
- Cans or food containers that are bulging, open, or dented
- Food not in waterproof containers or cans
- Food canned at home
- Food in cardboard containers (including juice, milk, and baby formula)
- Food in container with screw caps, snap lids, crimped caps, twist caps, flip tops, and snap-tops.
- Throw out the following items that may have had contact with flood or storm water:
- Wooden cutting boards
- Baby bottle nipples and pacifiers
- Clean and sanitize things that touch food in a four-step process:
- Wash with soap and clean water.
- Rinse with clean water.
- Sanitize by immersing for 1 minute in a solution of 1 cup (8 ounces or 240 milliliters) of chlorine bleach in 5 gallons of clean water.
- Allow to air dry.
- Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
- Listen for announcements from local officials to find out if there are germs and/or chemicals in the water.
- Boil water if instructed. Boil it for at least 1 minute (start counting when the water comes to a constant boil). Let the water cool sufficiently before drinking.
- Use bottled water if instructed. Sometimes after a disaster, there may be chemicals in the water that boiling cannot remove.
- For infants:
- Breast-feed or use ready-made formula.
- If you must use water to make formula, use only commercially-bottled water until officials say your tap water is safe to drink
- Things you should never do:
- Never drink the water unless you know it is safe.
- Never wash or clean dishes, utensils, toys, or other objects in the water unless you know it is safe.
- Never bathe in the water unless you know it is safe.
- Never cook with the water unless you know it is safe.
- Never brush your teeth with the water unless you know it is safe.
- Never use the water to make ice unless you know it is safe.
For further information about this requirement, please the Food Safety Program of the Division of Environmental Health at 300-9578, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.