When freezers and refrigerators are without power over an extended period of time, or if gardens or food are touched by flood waters, it's important to make sure that any rescued food is safe to eat.See also:
- Food Safety Advisory - 09/06/2011
- Guidance for Vermont Food and Lodging Establishments
- Cooking for Groups: A Volunteer's Guide to Food Safety (USDA)
- Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency (USDA)
Garden or Orchard Produce
- Throw away any fruit and vegetables – including root crops – that have been in contact with flood water. According to the federal Food & Drug Administration, all flood-affected crops – fruit and vegetables, above and below ground – should not be consumed, sold or given away.
- Apples, pears and other high-growing fruit that were not touched by flood water should be washed with a known safe source of water before eating.
Packaged and Canned Foods
- Throw away any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwater. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps.
- Throw away juice/milk/baby formula boxes land home canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwater because they cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
- For canned goods that came into contact with floodwater, remove labels, wash thoroughly with soap and hot water. Then place in a weak bleach solution made with 1 tbsp. unscented liquid chlorine bleach for every gallon of water from a known safe source and leave for 15 minutes. Re-label with marker, including expiration date.
Refrigerated and Frozen Foods
- If refrigerator and freezer doors are kept closed as much as possible during a power outage, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours, a half-full freezer will keep the temperature for about 24 hours.
- Do not cook and eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs or other refrigerated foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more. Throw away these products because they can be contaminated with bacteria that can cause serious illness.
Take all Precautions
- Wash hands thoroughly with clean water and soap before and after handling food items.
- Never taste food to determine if it is safe. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if it has been at room temperature for more than two hours it can make you sick. Bacteria multiply very quickly at room temperature.
- If you have any doubt about any food item, throw it out.
When the Power Returns
- Once the power returns, clean your refrigerator and freezer completely, including all removable parts, interior walls, gaskets and door liner, with a solution of 2 tbsp. baking soda to one quart clean warm water. Wipe down all jars, bottles and containers before returning them to the refrigerator.
If you have any questions, call the Health Department’s Food Safety program at 1-800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont) or 802-863-7220, Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.