Following Irene, many people will be busy cleaning, wrestling with insurance agents and making sure their family is safe. One part of keeping a family safe is making sure the post-Irene food they are eating is safe for consumption. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has several tips on making sure the food you eat does not make you sick.
For starters, never eat food that got wet during the hurricane. Many people believe that a little water never hurt anything, and will go ahead and eat wet food. However, flood water may contain contaminants, such as sewer overflow or feces from the ground. Even if your food is packed in plastic or other containers, it should not be eaten. Drinks with various capping devices, such as screw-on tops, crimped caps or flip-tops, should not be consumed if they have gotten wet with flood water. Also, food that has been home-canned should not be eaten if it has gotten wet with flood water.
Food that is commercially-prepared and packaged in all-metal cans, however, can be washed and sanitized, if the cans are undamaged. Labels should be completely removed before sanitizing, as they may contain bacteria. Metal pans, ceramic dishes and metal utensils can also be salvaged. The items should be thoroughly washed with hot, soapy water and sanitized with clean, boiling water. Alternatively, a mixture of one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of clean water can also be used to sanitize these items, letting them soak for 15 minutes and rinsing.
Other utensils and food preparation items that got wet should be discarded. For example, wooden cutting boards, wooden utensils, plastic cutting boards, plastic utensils and plastic cups should be thrown out. Also, discard baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.
If the power has been out, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the temperature is 40 degrees F or lower, the food is safe to refreeze. Individual packages of food can also be checked to determine if they are safe to refreeze if an appliance thermometer is not available. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
In addition to food, the FDA says that area health departments will determine if local tap water is safe to drink. To purify water, boil it. If is it cloudy, filter through clean cloths, or allow to settle and draw off the clear water, then boil. Boil for one minute, then let it cool and store covered in a clean container.
For more post-hurricane tips, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Read about prescription drug safety following flooding on Huliq.com:
FDA: Prescriptions may not be readily available after Hurricane Irene
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