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Food Safety A Priority In Flood Aftermath

“When in doubt, throw it out,” says public health official

Due to the recent flooding and power outages experienced across middle and west Tennessee, food safety must be a top priority for affected residents. To ensure safety and wellness, Tennessee public health officials urge individuals to throw away all food that may have come in contact with flood water as well as those perishables exposed to temperatures about 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or more.

“As people begin to return to their homes that may have been flooded or without power for several days, it’s important to remember that food contaminated by flood water or compromised by loss of electricity poses a health risk,” said State Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “A commonly held food safety philosophy is when in doubt, throw it out. Your health and wellness are too important to take any chances.”

Foods that should be discarded include canned goods that are bulging, opened or damaged as well as those that have an unusual odor, color or texture. Perishable food items that have not come in contact with flood water but have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours or longer should also be thrown out. This includes meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and leftovers.

There are a few exceptions. Canned food items that have come in contact with flood water but are not dented, damaged or bulging may be cleaned. To do so, remove the labels, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (240 milliliters) of bleach in 5 gallons of clean water. Re-label the cans with a marker. Also, thawed food from the freezer that contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below can be refrozen or cooked.

While the power is out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Add block ice or dry ice to your refrigerator if the electricity is expected to be off longer than four hours. Wear heavy gloves when handling ice.

For more information, visit the CDC Web site at:
http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/foodwater/.

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