Extreme weather sometimes wreaks havoc when it strikes our communities—destroying homes and compromising safety. Floods and power outages from hurricanes, tornadoes, and snow storms can cut off water supplies and quickly contaminate food. Protect yourself, your family, and your pets from foodborne illnesses. Following are steps you can take to preserve your food and water during storms.
Prepare for unpredictable weather emergencies. Have these supplies on hand:
- Thermometers in the freezer and refrigerator
- Containers of ice to keep food cold or to melt if water supply is contaminated or unavailable
- Coolers, frozen gel packs, and dry ice to keep refrigerated food at or below 40 F and frozen food at or below zero F if power is out for more than 4 hours
- Bottled water
- Nonperishable food high on shelves, in case of flood
- Manual can opener
- Bleach for disinfecting
Do not eat or drink anything that has touched flood water, including food packed in non-metal containers. Before using food in undamaged metal cans, remove any labels, which can harbor dirt and germs, and sanitize the cans. Thoroughly wash, rinse, and sanitize anything that may come in contact with food—for example, pans, dishes, utensils, and countertops. Keep food at recommended temperatures.
How to sanitize:
Mix 1 tablespoon household bleach with 1 gallon of water.
Soak item in the solution for 15 minutes and air dry.
How to make water safe to use and drink:
Filter cloudy water through a clean cloth, or let it settle, drawing off the clear water
Boil water for one minute, cool it, and store it in clean covered containers.
Or, if boiling is not possible…
Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach to 1 gallon of water.
Stir and let water stand 30 minutes before using.
Store the disinfected water in clean, disinfected containers with tight covers.
Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs not kept at recommended temperatures can make you sick—even if thoroughly cooked.
If water supply is still unsafe, boil water or use bottled water.
Once power is restored, check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. You can safely eat or refreeze food in the freezer if it is below 40 F.
If your freezer does not include a thermometer, then check the temperature of each food item. If the item still contains ice crystals or is at or below 40 F, you can safely refreeze it.
Discard any perishable food—for example, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk—that has been in a refrigerator or freezer at or above 40 F 2 hours or more.
When in doubt, throw it out.
National Hurricane Center (NOAA)
In an Emergency (FoodSafety.gov)
Disposition of Food From Flood-Affected Crops
For more information on safe food handling, go to Disaster Assistance from FoodSafety.gov or call FDA's toll-free information line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD (1-888-723-3366).