How to consume food safely after a flood?

How to consume food safely after a flood? Nonstop rain has brought Mumbai to a halt with major parts of the maximum city being flooded with water. Roads are underwater, and train services have been hit hard. Daily travelers have been stuck in various parts of the city.

Food safety is one of the most important concerns after natural disasters such as floods. Floods can easily contaminate your food supply, making it unfit to eat. Floodwaters generally carry a high load of bacteria and filth with them, and may contain oil or chemical wastes as well. Most food that comes in contact with floodwater should be discarded. It is important to follow good food hygiene to stop harmful germs that may be present in floodwater, spreading to food.

After a flooding, you need to assess all food and food preparations to decide what to keep or throw away. Here are some important tips to get you started:

Foods to discard

Discard any food and beverage that is not in a waterproof container, if there is any chance that it has come into contact with floodwater. These include:

  • Fresh produce, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.
  • Fruits or vegetables that are intended to be eaten raw, e.g. lettuce, strawberries etc.
  • Opened containers and packages of food.
  • All food in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, cellophane, or cloth.
  • Foodstuff in glass containers and containers with screw-caps, snap lids, and crimped caps.
  • Spices, flavors and extracts, flour, and sugar in canisters.
  • Food in cans, that are dented, leaking, or rusted.
  • Any refrigerated items that have turned moldy or have an unusual odor or appearance.

Foods to keep

Some foods can be salvaged.

  • Commercially prepared foods in unopened and undamaged all-metal cans can be saved. Sanitizing is essential for safe use. Follow this procedure:
  1. Remove labels; paper can harbor dirt and dangerous bacteria.
  2. Wash with soap and hot water using a scrub brush.
  3. Sanitize cans by immersion in one of the two following ways:

Place in clean water, allow water to come to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, or place for 15 minutes in a freshly made solution consisting of 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach per gallon (3.7 liters) of clean water.

  1. Allow containers to air dry for at least 1 hour before opening.
  • Potatoes, carrots, apples and other firm fruits and vegetables should be sanitized, peeled, and cooked before eating. Cooking will kill all the harmful germs that may be present. Do not eat raw fruits or vegetables, even if they have been sanitized.
  • It is fine to consume produce that is growing above the water and has not come into contact with flood water e.g. fruit on trees.

Be careful of contaminated water

Don’t use tank water that may be polluted by floodwater. Use clean water from a safe source for drinking, washing, and preparing food. Moreover, consume bottled water that has not been exposed to floodwaters, if it is available. If bottled water is not available, drink boiled or disinfected water.

Clean all utensils and food preparation surfaces

All work surfaces, plates, pans, cutlery etc., that have come in contact with floodwater, must be cleaned and disinfected before using them with food. Moreover, utensils and cookware must be washed with soap and hot water. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon (3.7 liters) of clean water. Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and hot water. Rinse and then sanitize by applying a bleach solution as above. Allow them to air dry before using. Clean and disinfect the inside of your fridge and food cupboards, if they have been touched by floodwater.

Always remember: When in doubt, throw it out!