Extension News

Floodwater, Power Outages Can Lead to Food-borne Illness

6/6/2008

AMES, Iowa -- Water, water, everywhere -- can lead to food-borne illness when basements flood and the electricity goes out, says Sam Beattie, Iowa State University Extension food safety specialist.

“Any food that is dry -- flour, packaged food, cereals -- that gets wet should be discarded. It will mold, it will suffer quality issues and you just will not want to eat it,” Beattie said.

If cans of food become submerged in floodwater, the food in the cans is safe, but the surfaces of the cans could become contaminated from the floodwater, Beattie said. Get the cans out of the floodwater; then wash them with soapy water followed by light bleach to sanitize them.

“You’re going to lose the label during this process,” Beattie warns. After the can is sanitized, use a waterproof marker to identify the can -- what food it contains and the date by which you need to use it.

Home canned foods are harder to deal with, he said. The threads on the jar may become contaminated in an area that is very difficult to sanitize.

Listen to an interview with Beattie for more information (time 15:01). Also see these ISU Extension news articles:

-- What Food Can I Keep and What Should I Throw Out?
-- No Electricity: Is Food in the Freezer and Rerigerator Still Safe?
-- May I Refreeze the Food in the Freezer if It Thawed or Partially Thawed?

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Contacts :

Sam Beattie, Food Science/Human Nutrition, (515) 294-3357, beatties@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu