Basic Food Safety
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Fact Sheets for Disasters: Basic Food Safety
Do not eat unsafe food
Food is usually safe unless it touched floodwater or was not kept cold. Throw out food or drink if:
- It is likely to spoil;
- Has an odd odor, color, or feel;
- It touched floodwater and is not in a waterproof package;
- It has a screw cap or “pop top”
- Its can is rusted, swollen, leaking or badly creased or dented.
Cans that aren’t damaged may be saved. First:
- Take label off;
- Wash with soap and clean water;
- Sanitize with a mix of one tablespoon bleach in one gallon of safe water;
- Write the product name and expiration date on the can.
When in doubt, throw it out!
Keep cold foods cold
Throw out refrigerated or frozen food if it has been:
- Above 41° F for 4 hours or more; or
- Thawed for 2 hours or more.
If you lose power, a refrigerator will keep food cool for 4-6 hours if you keep it closed. Food will stay frozen for one day in a freezer that is half-full and kept closed; or up to 2 days if it is full.
Use safe water
Only use safe water for drinking, cooking, making ice or baby formula, washing hands and dishes. If your water well has been flooded, water is most likely not safe.
Clean hands and surfaces
Clean all hard surfaces such as countertops, sinks, dishes, utensils and other items that hold food.
Do all four steps to clean surfaces:
- Use soap and warm, safe water;
- Rinse with safe water;
- Soak 1 minute with a mix of 1 Tablespoon household bleach per gallon of safe water;
- Wipe countertops and soak dishes and utensils with this bleach mix;
- Allow to air dry.
Before touching food, wash hands well. Scrub hands with soap and safe water.
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