Flood water contains pathogens and chemicals that can make people sick even after the water recedes.
The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service warns that food, packaging and appliances that have been submerged in a flood are not safe and should be discarded.
Here are safety recommendations from a news release the agency sent to media in this region June 4:
■ Use bottled drinking water that has not come in contact with flood water.
■ Do not eat any food that may have come in contact with flood water.
■ Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance it may have come in contact with flood water. Food containers that are not waterproof include those with screw-caps, snap lids, pull tops and crimped caps. Soda and beer cans and bottles are not waterproof, and those beverages should be discarded.
■ Also discard cardboard juice, milk or baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with flood waters. They cannot be effectively cleaned and sanitized.
■ Inspect canned foods; discard any in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking or opening with a manual, wheel-type can opener.
■ Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers that may have come in contact with flood waters. There is no way to safely clean them.
■ Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes, utensils (including can openers) with soap and water (hot water if available). Rinse and sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.
Asked why the bleach should be unscented, an agency representative told the Democrat-Gazette on Thursday that the scent chemicals in scented bleach have no public health benefit and so the agency doesn't recommend it, but a scented bleach is as effective as unscented at disinfecting. Using scented bleach if that is all that is available is OK.
■ Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and water (hot water if available). Rinse and then sanitize them by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water. Allow to air-dry.
If your refrigerator or freezer was submerged by floodwaters — even partially — it is unsafe to use and must be discarded.
The agency's pamphlet "A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes" has more advice, including steps for rehabbing all-metal canned goods. Here is a shortcut link: arkansasonline.com/610guide.
The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888MPHotline can answer questions about food safety, and there's a "chat live" feature at AskKaren.gov in English or Spanish from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Style on 06/10/2019