Water Pollution Control

Play it Safe with Food

Water damaged foods may not be safe to eat. If you have any question or a doubt about the safety of any item, dispose of it. Otherwise keep the following points in mind.


  • Destroy the following foods if they have been contaminated by flood waters:
    • fresh fruits and vegetables
    • foods in cardboard containers or paper cartons
    • foods in bags, such as rice, sugar or flour
    • foods, liquids or beverages in capped bottles or containers with pulltops, corks, or screw lids
    This includes canned foods in glass jars, whether you bought them or canned them yourself.

  • Destroy all foods that were covered by water which may have been contaminated.
    This includes foods sealed in unopened cans.

  • Foods in sealed cans, uncontaminated, may be safe to eat if the cans don't have bulges or leaks, but you must disinfect the cans before opening them. To disinfect cans, remove the labels and wash the container with soap or detergent. Rinse in a chlorine bleach solution using two tablespoons of household bleach to each gallon of water. Dry and then re-label or mark. Cans can also be sterilized by covering with water and boiling for at least 10 minutes.

  • In the event of a power failure, frozen or refrigerated foods warmed to above 40 degrees F for two to three hours may not be safe to eat. If food have been above 40 degrees for less than two hours, cook immediately and eat or freeze.

  • Partially thawed frozen foods with ice crystals may be safely re-frozen. Breads can be re-frozen as well as fruits and vegetables that are still at or below 40 degrees.

  • Discard all stuffed poultry. Do not refreeze frozen dinners that have thawed. Discard any meat that has a questionable odor or that has been exposed to temperatures above 40 degrees F for two hours or longer.

  • Foods in the freezer without power may stay frozen for one to three days, depending on these conditions:
    • The door must have remained closed
    • The freezer must be full or almost full
    • The temperature outside may be moderate
    • The freezer must be large and well-insulated

  • Dry ice can be put on boards or heavy paper and placed in the freezer on top of packages to keep temperatures below freezing. Allow 2 ½ to 3 pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of space. More will be needed in an upright freezer, because dry ice should be placed on each shelf. Dry ice can cause burns, so don't handle it with bare hands.

  • Information is available about food handling from the USDA Food Safety Hotline from 9 a.m. to 4:30 pm. Call toll-free 1-800-535-4555 or try their web site.

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