Foods Can Be Unexpected Flood Casualties Says Food Safety Expert

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  6/9/2005 9:46:32 PM

News Release Distributed 07/01/02

Besides the obvious property damage that floodwaters cause, the household food supply could end up a total loss. "Destroy all food that has been in contact with floodwaters," advises LSU AgCenter food safety expert Dr. Beth Reames.

The food safety specialist says fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as vegetables in the home garden, should be destroyed if they’ve come in contact with floodwater. The same is true for meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Also toss opened containers and packages, plus flour, sugar, grain, coffee and other staples in canisters. Discard spices, seasonings and extracts touched by floodwater.

Wooden spoons, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers should be discarded, too. Reames says washing them will not eliminate the danger.

The specialist lists other, not-so-obvious foods to throw away:

  • Preserves sealed with paraffin.
  • Unopened jars with waxed cardboard seals, such as mayonnaise and salad dressing.
  • All foods in cardboard boxes, paper, foil, cellophane or cloth.
  • Foods, liquids or beverages in crown-capped bottles or containers with pull-tops, corks or screw caps.
  • Home-canned foods.
  • Cans dented, leaking, bulging or rusted.

"Destroy all foods that were covered by water which may have been contaminated with industrial waste," Reames emphasizes, adding, "This includes those foods sealed in unopened cans."

Reames says foods in sealed cans and commercial glass jars of food without cardboard seals not fouled by industrial waste may be safe to eat if the cans don't have bulges or leaks, but she cautions that you must disinfect before you open them.

She recommends following these sanitizing steps:

  • Mark contents on can or lid with indelible ink.
  • Remove labels.
  • Wash jars and cans in a strong detergent solution with a scrub brush.
  • Immerse these containers for 15 minutes in a solution of 2 teaspoons of chlorine bleach per quart of room temperature water.
  • Air dry before opening.
  • Reames says to sanitize dishes and glassware the same way.

As an overall precaution, Reames says, "If you have a question about the safety of any item, dispose of it."

For additional flood recovery information, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office or visit


Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3329, or
On the Web: Louisiana Floods,

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