Oklahomans know all too well the effects floodwaters can have on both individuals and communities. Floods can cause loss of human life, damage to property, destruction of crops, loss of livestock and more.
The safety of food and beverage products following a flood also is a concern, said Ravi Jadeja, food safety specialist for Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center.
“It’s important to know the proper food safety precautions to take after a national disaster, such as a flood,” Jadeja said. “Emergencies can happen, especially with extreme weather conditions, and being prepared to safely handle food and beverages after a flood is key.”
The following tips can help assure food and beverages are safe to eat if affected by a flood.
1. Do not eat any food that may have come into contact with flood water.
2. Discard any food and beverage that are not in a waterproof container if it has come into contact with flood water. Food containers that are waterproof include undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches, such as flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches. 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.
3. Discard any food in damaged cans. Damaged cans are those with swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting that is severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.
4. Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils, including can openers, with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented household (5.25 percent concentration) liquid bleach per gallon of water.
5. Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented household (5.25 percent concentration) liquid bleach per gallon of water. Allow to air dry.
In addition, undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches can be saved by following these procedures.
1. Remove the labels, if they are the removable kind, since they can harbor dirt and bacteria.
2. Brush or wipe away any dirt or silt.
3. Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water, using hot water if it is available.
4. Rinse the cans or retort pouches with water that is safe for drinking, if available, since dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.
5. Sanitize cans and retort pouches by immersion. Either place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, or place in a solution of 1 cup of unscented household (5.25 percent concentration) bleach mixed with 5 gallons of water and soak for 15 minutes.
6. Air dry cans or retort pouches for a minimum of 1 hour before opening or storing.
7. If the labels were removable, then re-label your cans or retort pouches, including the expiration date, with a permanent marking pen.
FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, helps to discover, develop and deliver technical and business information that will stimulate and support the growth of value-added food and agricultural products and processing in Oklahoma.
For more information about food safety, text FAPC to 80802 to download the free FAPC Connect app or visit www.fapcconnect.com.