U.S. flag An official website of the United States government
  1. Home
  2. Animal & Veterinary
  3. Resources for You
  4. Animal Health Literacy
  5. How to Handle Food Products that Have Been Exposed to Filth
  1. Animal Health Literacy

How to Handle Food Products that Have Been Exposed to Filth


Food products that have been exposed to filth, like rats, mice and other rodents, can make you or your family members sick. This includes food and drinks for people as well as food for animals, like pet food, bird seed or fish flakes.

Throw away food products in plastic and paper containers. Then inspect any cans or glass containers of food. Cans or jars that are dented, crushed, swollen/bulging, or that have deep rusting, cracks, holes, punctures, or a broken seal should also be thrown away. Be sure to discard this food carefully and in a way that prevents it from being eaten by people or animals, like in a trash can with a secure cover. After throwing the products away, wash your hands thoroughly and disinfect the area where they were stored. Do not give away or donate these items because you could be putting other people’s health at risk. Also check to see if the product has been recalled. If so, follow the instructions in the recall notice for what to do with the product.

Here’s how to salvage food products that have been exposed to filth but that are in undamaged all-metal cans or hermetically sealed jars containing commercially prepared food and drinks. 

  1. Remove the labels from the can or jar because they could have dirt or bacteria on them. Keep notes on what is in each can so you can re-label them after sanitation. You may also want to use your cell phone to take a picture of each label for reference.
  2. Wipe away any visible signs of filth from the container.
  3. Thoroughly wash the cans or jars with soap and water, using hot water if it’s available.
  4. Rinse the cans or jars with water that is safe for drinking. Make sure there is no dirt or soap residue left on the cans or jars before you sanitize them.
  5. Sanitize cans and jars by immersing them in one of these ways:
    1. Place in water and allow the water to come to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes
    2. Place in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/250 mL) of unscented household bleach (5.25% concentration) mixed with 5 gallons of water and soak for 15 minutes. Please see CDC’s page about how to use bleach to clean and sanitize for tips and safety information.
  6. While the cans and jars are being sanitized, clean and disinfect the areas, including sinks, where you were working on the products. Wash your hands again before handling the newly-sanitized containers.
  7. Air dry cans and jars for at least one hour before opening or storing.
  8. If the labels were removed, then use a permanent marker to write on the container what is in it and what the expiration date is. Use the products you’ve sanitized as soon as possible.


Back to Top